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Parkinson’s Test

January 31, 2013

A salivary gland biopsy may finally make it possible to definitively diagnose Parkinson’s Disease in living patients.



Finally, a test for Parkinson’s.  I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

As of now, Parkinson’s Disease can only be truly diagnosed by looking at brain tissue in an autopsy.  But a new technique may change that.  It’s being studied by neurologist Charles Adler, of the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine in Scottsdale, Arizona.  Previously, his team found that the salivary glands of deceased Parkinson’s patients were packed with the same abnormal protein found in their brain tissue.  In the latest study, they took biopsies from the salivary glands of living patients, and looked for the protein.

CHARLES ADLER (Mayo Clinic College of Medicine):

And we were able to find that in 9 of the 11 cases that we had enough tissue to study.

Adler notes that currently, autopsies of patients who had been treated for Parkinson’s sometimes show that they didn’t really have the disease.  If the salivary biopsy proves effective, that could change significantly.  I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the Science Society.

Until now, Parkinson's disease could not be definitively diagnosed until after death. But physicians have relied on certain characteristic signs of the disease, such as posture. A man with Parkinson's disease displaying a flexed walking posture pictured in 1892. Photo appeared in Nouvelle Iconographie de la Salpètrière, vol. 5. (Albert Londe 1858-1917/Wikipedia)