Test for Cognitive Decline in Parkinson’s Patients

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphiadeveloped a blood test capable of determining the level of mental impairment likely to be suffered by patients with Parkinson’s disease. The new test, the first of its kind, examines the level of epidermal growth factor, or EGF, found in patients. The scientists determined that patients with the lowest levels of this factor are eight times more likely to develop dementia symptoms than other Parkinson’s patients.
 Lead researcher Dr. Alice Chen-Plotkin of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine (Source: Dr. Alice Chen-Plotkin)
Lead researcher Dr. Alice Chen-Plotkin of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine (Source: Dr. Alice Chen-Plotkin)

Approximately 83% of all Parkinson’s disease patients develop some level of dementia symptoms at some point during the course of their struggle with the disease, but the time it takes to start developing such symptoms and the rate at which they increase once started vary greatly from person to person. In the Penn study, led by Dr. Alice Chen-Plotkin of the School of Medicine, approximately half of the patients with low levels of epidermal growth factor had begun developing dementia symptoms within 14 months. A second round of test data that will hopefully validate these results should be available in 2012.

A test permitting doctors to identify the likelihood of a fast decline from Parkinson’s disease has several applications. First, most patients want to know if and when they are likely to start experiencing mental impairment from the disease. Once the results are fully validated, this test could give them the answers they seek. It could also greatly speed up the testing of new Parkinson’s treatments by identifying patients likely to experience symptoms faster and permitting comparison of results from new medications against the baselines established by this Penn study.

TFOT previously reported on other Parkinson’s disease research, including a gene therapy treatment which may improve many of the cognitive symptoms of the disease and a way to use artificial stem cells to treat Parkinson’s disease. TFOT has also reported on an ultrasound helmet designed for military use that may provide relief to Parkinson’s patients.

Read more about the new blood test in this University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine press release or read the abstract of Dr. Chen-Plotkin’s paper in the journal Annals of Neurology.

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