Scientists are a step closer to developing a potentially game-changing test to diagnose Parkinson’s disease.
According to a new study, it is possible to identify Parkinson’s based on compounds found on the surface of skin.
The findings offer hope that a new test could be developed to diagnose the degenerative condition through a simple painless skin swab, researchers say.
Perdita Barran, professor of mass spectrometry at the University of Manchester, said: “We believe that our results are an extremely encouraging step towards tests that could be used to help diagnose and monitor Parkinson’s.
“Not only is the test quick, simple and painless but it should also be extremely cost-effective because it uses existing technology that is already widely available.
“We are now looking to take our findings forwards to refine the test to improve accuracy even further and to take steps towards making this a test that can be used in the NHS and to develop more precise diagnostics and better treatment for this debilitating condition.”
Writing in Nature Communications, the scientists describe a technique which works by analysing compounds found in sebum – the oily substance that coats and protects the skin – and identifying changes in people with the disease.
Sebum is one of the lesser-studied biological fluids in the diagnosis of the condition.
People with Parkinson’s may produce more sebum than normal – a condition known as seborrhoea, researchers say.
Parkinson’s develops gradually and it could be years before symptoms become obvious enough for someone to visit their GP.
A DaTscan is regularly used to help specialists confirm the loss of dopamine-producing cells that cause the development of Parkinson’s.
However, similar loss may also occur in some other rarer neurological conditions.
In a recent survey of more than 2,000 people with the condition carried out by Parkinson’s UK, more than a quarter (26%) reported they were misdiagnosed with a different condition before receiving the correct Parkinson’s diagnosis.
Professor David Dexter, associate director of research at Parkinson’s UK, said: “We are proud to have part-funded this groundbreaking research which marks a significant step towards developing a quick and accurate test that can not only revolutionise the way we diagnose Parkinson’s, but also allow us to monitor how this debilitating condition progresses.”
Daxa Kalayci, 56, lives in Leicester and was finally diagnosed with Parkinson’s in September 2019 after being misdiagnosed several times over four years.
She said: “This test could be a game-changer for people living with Parkinson’s and searching for answers, like I was.
“I am so happy with this news because it will mean that in future people won’t have to experience the anxiety of multiple appointments, long waiting times and sleepless nights.
“The sooner this test is available, the better. Anything that can help people looking for a diagnosis is a bonus.”