NOV 15, 2021 5:17 PM PST

Alpha-synuclein as a Biomarker for Parkinson's Disease

Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a widespread neurogenerative disorder that can significantly impact a person’s quality of life. In addition to motor symptoms such as stiffness and tremor, cognitive decline and depression may also occur. About 60,000 people in the United States are diagnosed with PD each year. Despite our rapidly increasing understanding of PD, many gaps in our knowledge still exist, and accurate and early diagnosis remains a challenge. Currently, there are no laboratory or imaging tests for nongenetic cases of Parkinson’s Disease. Diagnosis is based on clinical history and examination, as well as response to medication. Various molecular imaging techniques to trace markers associated with PD are currently being evaluated through trials funded through the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. However, researchers are also actively investigating the possibility of using certain biomarkers detected in various bodily fluids to aid in diagnosing PD.

Alpha-synuclein is a protein thought to be critical to the pathogenesis of PD, although the mechanism through which this protein causes neurotoxicity and degeneration is not fully understood. Alpha-synuclein is present in the cerebrospinal fluid, saliva, and blood. However, the levels of this protein can fluctuate; therefore, the interpretation of altering levels of alpha-synuclein can be problematic. An additional limitation of available research is the variations in testing procedures that have been used to measure alpha-synuclein, making comparisons between studies difficult. Alpha-synuclein has different forms, and our knowledge of levels in healthy vs. PD subjects is lacking. Some studies, however, have yielded exciting results. For example, although they are limited in number, studies measuring alpha-synuclein in skin biopsies have been consistent. Additionally, skin biopsies are minimally invasive and easy to perform.

Finding a reliable biomarker for PD would significantly improve diagnostic accuracy and allow providers to monitor improvement or advancement of the disease. It could also assist in the objective measurement of response to treatment. Larger studies with PD patients will be required to obtain reliable results. Alpha-synuclein is a promising biomarker but its clinical usefulness is currently limited. Investigators should continue to explore the use of combination biomarkers and imaging biomarkers for the diagnosis and prognostication of PD.

Sources: Parkinson’s Foundation, Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience

About the Author
  • Dr. Christopher DiMaio is a Science Writer at Labroots. He received his MD from Penn State College of Medicine in 2014. His academic and professional interests include Neuroscience, Behavioral health, Immunology, and Healthcare improvement, among others. He is an active part of his community.
You May Also Like
DEC 29, 2021
Health & Medicine
To Drink or Not to Drink This Holiday Season: New Research on Alcohol and Heart Health
DEC 29, 2021
To Drink or Not to Drink This Holiday Season: New Research on Alcohol and Heart Health
Alcohol consumption has been linked to a reversible form of atrial fibrillation known as Holiday Heart Syndrome, where h ...
JAN 05, 2022
Technology
A Digital Therapeutic for IBS Pain Management?
JAN 05, 2022
A Digital Therapeutic for IBS Pain Management?
Digital therapeutics (DTx) continue to rise in prevalence and scientific efficacy. While technology is nothing new in he ...
JAN 07, 2022
Cardiology
Does Shoveling Snow Increase Your Risk of a Heart Attack?
JAN 07, 2022
Does Shoveling Snow Increase Your Risk of a Heart Attack?
Shoveling snow is a daily task in many parts of the U.S. However, this activity could increase the risk of a heart attac ...
JAN 11, 2022
Drug Discovery & Development
The FDA grants approval for a new insomnia drug to improve sleep in adults
JAN 11, 2022
The FDA grants approval for a new insomnia drug to improve sleep in adults
The Swiss biotech company Idorsia announced this week that it has received approval from the United States Foo ...
JAN 17, 2022
Plants & Animals
An Earth-Friendly Diet Starts With Swapping One Food Item Per Day
JAN 17, 2022
An Earth-Friendly Diet Starts With Swapping One Food Item Per Day
When we think about dieting, we often think about how it affects our own physical and mental health. But what about the ...
JAN 18, 2022
Cardiology
New Study Links Mental Stress to Cardiovascular Disease
JAN 18, 2022
New Study Links Mental Stress to Cardiovascular Disease
We all know stress is bad for us. A new study confirms that psychological stress leads to greater risk for our hearts.
Loading Comments...