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New Biomarker May Improve Parkinson’s Treatment

University of Florida researchers have identified a biomarker that shows the progression of Parkinson’s disease in the brain.

Scientists believe the marker will aid in diagnosis and lead to improved treatment of the degenerative disease.

An interdisciplinary team of researchers compared brain images of Parkinson’s patients to those of a control group for over a year. They 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, said University of Florida applied physiology and kinesiology professor David Vaillancourt, Ph.D., one of the study’s authors.

“The Parkinson’s drugs available today help reduce symptoms. They don’t slow the progression of the disease, which is the major unmet medical need,” Vaillancourt said.

“We’ve provided a tool to test promising new therapies that could address progression.”

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. That could lead to better clinical trials, Vaillancourt said.

Source: University of Florida

New Biomarker May Improve Parkinson’s Treatment

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2018). New Biomarker May Improve Parkinson’s Treatment. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 4, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018 (Originally: 27 May 2015)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
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