Imaging technique may trace development of Parkinson's disease

Mar 24, 2009

While finding a biomarker for Parkinson's disease that would let physicians screen for or track its progression remains an elusive goal, a team led by a University of Illinois at Chicago neuroscientist has shown that a non-invasive brain scanning technique offers promise.

The tool may also help advance the development of or neuroprotective agents to treat or ward off Parkinson's. The findings, now online, will appear in a forthcoming issue of Neurology.

David Vaillancourt, assistant professor of kinesiology at UIC, along with colleagues from UIC and Rush University, used a type of MRI scan called diffusion tensor imaging on 28 subjects, half with early symptoms of Parkinson's and the other half without.

They scanned an area of the brain called the substantia nigra, a cluster of neurons that produce the . Parkinson's patients have been found to have about half the number of dopaminergic neurons in certain areas of the substantia nigra as those without the .

Determining loss of dopaminergic neurons using conventional methods such as metabolic PET scans is expensive, invasive, and requires injection of chemicals. But the method studied by Vaillancourt and his group is non-invasive, relatively inexpensive, and does not use radioactive tracers.

"We're suggesting it's possible to eventually diagnose Parkinson's disease non-invasively and objectively by examining the part of the brain thought to underlie the causes of the disease," said Vaillancourt. No tool currently available can do that, he said.

The researchers say the technique may also help develop neuroprotective agents to treat Parkinson's. Vaillancourt said it's difficult to identify a neuroprotective agent using current measures because the results are skewed by any therapy used to treat symptoms.

"When you have a symptomatic effect of the neuroprotective agent, you need a lot of patients from multiple centers to determine if the neuroprotective agent works," he said. "But if you have a disease marker not affected by a dopaminergic therapy, then you would be able to test neuroprotective agents among smaller groups."

Vaillancourt thinks that would enable faster development of drugs to treat Parkinson's. He noted that while the technique his group studied works well as a trait , which allows for diagnosis, it has not yet been shown to measure the state of the disease's progression. Further research is planned.

Source: University of Illinois at Chicago (news : web)

Explore further: Researchers discover target for treating dengue fever

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Sentry enzyme blocks two paths to Parkinson's disease

Feb 01, 2007

The degeneration of brain cells that occurs in Parkinson's disease may be caused by either externally provoked cell death or internally initiated suicide when the molecule that normally prevents these fatal alternatives is ...

Recommended for you

Researchers discover target for treating dengue fever

4 hours ago

Two recent papers by a University of Colorado School of Medicine researcher and colleagues may help scientists develop treatments or vaccines for Dengue fever, West Nile virus, Yellow fever, Japanese encephalitis and other ...

Tracking flu levels with Wikipedia

4 hours ago

Can monitoring Wikipedia hits show how many people have the flu? Researchers at Boston Children's Hospital, USA, have developed a method of estimating levels of influenza-like illness in the American population by analysing ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Turning off depression in the brain

Scientists have traced vulnerability to depression-like behaviors in mice to out-of-balance electrical activity inside neurons of the brain's reward circuit and experimentally reversed it – but there's ...

Researchers discover target for treating dengue fever

Two recent papers by a University of Colorado School of Medicine researcher and colleagues may help scientists develop treatments or vaccines for Dengue fever, West Nile virus, Yellow fever, Japanese encephalitis and other ...

Our brains are hardwired for language

A groundbreaking study published in PLOS ONE by Prof. Iris Berent of Northeastern University and researchers at Harvard Medical School shows the brains of individual speakers are sensitive to language univer ...

Study recalculates costs of combination vaccines

One of the most popular vaccine brands for children may not be the most cost-effective choice. And doctors may be overlooking some cost factors when choosing vaccines, driving the market toward what is actually a more expensive ...

Better thermal-imaging lens from waste sulfur

Sulfur left over from refining fossil fuels can be transformed into cheap, lightweight, plastic lenses for infrared devices, including night-vision goggles, a University of Arizona-led international team ...

Hackathon team's GoogolPlex gives Siri extra powers

(Phys.org) —Four freshmen at the University of Pennsylvania have taken Apple's personal assistant Siri to behave as a graduate-level executive assistant which, when asked, is capable of adjusting the temperature ...