Researchers have identified a biomarker that shows the progression of Parkinson's disease in the brain, opening the door to better diagnosis and treatment of the degenerative disease.
By comparing brain images of Parkinson's patients to those of a control group over a year, athe researchers found that an area of the brain called the substania nigra changes as the disease advances. The findings provide the first MRI-based method to measure the disease's progression, which can inform treatment decisions and aid in identifying new therapies.
The substania nigra of a Parkinson's patient has more "free water" - fluid unconstrained by brain tissue, likely because of disease-related degeneration. The new study published in the journal Brain uses diffusion imaging, a type of MRI, to show that free-water levels increase as the disease progresses. The free-water level was also a good predictor of how bradykinesia - the slowness of movement common to Parkinson's - advanced over the course of the subsequent year.
Because doctors typically diagnose the disease by evaluating patients' symptoms and how they respond to medication, the indicator could also be useful to distinguish Parkinson's from similar disorders.
Based on material originally posted by University of Florida.