Mar, 2021 - By WMR
Scientists at the University of Manchester have made a major breakthrough in their research into how painless skin swabs could be used to diagnose Parkinson's disease
Currently, diagnosing Parkinson's disease is a difficult method that relies on symptoms, diligent evaluations, and physician case-by-case tests. However, we have recently seen how more obvious indications of disease can appear in the gut, tears, and even our skin. Scientists at the University of Manchester (UM) have made a major breakthrough in this field, discovering that swabs that collect chemical information from the skin can be used to accurately differentiate patients suffering from Parkinson's disease from healthy controls.
The concept of detecting Parkinson's disease by skin biomarkers is gaining ground, with researchers approaching the problem from a variety of perspectives. The hope is that it can be diagnosed and treated early on, before the majority of dopamine-producing brain cells have died off and the patient's symptoms become serious. Skin biopsies that reveal specific biomarkers may be one way for scientists to do this. Last October, a study showed how this method could be used to correctly diagnose the disease in 24 out of 25 cases by detecting misfolded alpha-synuclein proteins.
The UM study looks at a non-invasive process, focusing on swabs that collect samples from our skin's oily layer, known as sebum. This material is chock-full of interesting molecules, and it's thought that people with Parkinson's disease generate more of it than those who don't. As a result, the University of Michigan researchers devised a study to examine its contribution to the disease.
According to University of Manchester's Professor Perdita Barran, the test is not only fast, easy, and painless, but it should also be extremely cost-effective because it makes use of widely available technology. The team plans to use the results to boost the test's accuracy even more, as well as to take steps toward making it a test that can be used in the NHS (National Health Service) and creating more accurate diagnostics and better treatment for this debilitating condition.