Tuesday, May 29, 2012

I knew Parkinson's was a pain in the ass, but....

In a study  at the Rush University Medical Center in Chicago that was published in the Journal Movement Disorders,
researchers reported they examined tissue samples from three patients taken during colonoscopies two to five years before the patients developed Parkinson's disease symptoms. All the patients had the characteristic aggregates of alpha-synuclein in their gut.
This study came after a previous study where they found that nine PD patients had clumps of alpha-synuclein in the nerve tissues in their guts, while 23 healthy patients and 23 Crohn's or Colitis patients did not.  What this means, is there may now be a definitive test for Parkinson's Disease and one which could catch the disease even before symptoms begin to appear.  While this probably won't help many people with Young Onset Parkinson's Disease (YOPD) because you typically don't have your first colonoscopy until your 45-50, it definitely could help elderly patients get on neuro-protective drugs that are currently in development or just released.

Considering all the tests I went through to rule out everything else before my doctor officially "diagnosed" me with Parkinson's and the number of YOPD patients that go years before they can convince a doctor it's not stress or in their head (no pun intended), a colonoscopy would probably be a welcomed test if it could give a definitive diagnosis.  And yes, I have had a colonoscopy (the prep is worse than the actual test).

Some other benefits of these results is that it gives a new avenue to study in how Parkinson's develops, because researchers can now look at patients before they actually have symptoms and possibly measure if there is some gradual increase that will move the disease and symptoms from the gut to the brain.  Also, with a definitive test, a common patient sub-group can be used to test new treatments without having to guess if the person is a definitive patient.

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