A biomarker for differential diagnosis of Parkinsonian disorder

Oskar Hansson MD PhD, associate professor at Lund University in Sweden, has spear-headed a team looking for diagnostic accuracy among APDs (Atypical Parkinsonian Disorders) in order to distinguish them from Parkinson’s disease. Some of this alphabet of horrors include multiple system atrophy (MSM), progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP) and corticobasal degeneration (CBD).

The neurofilament light chain (NfL) protein which is found in the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) appeared to be a promising candidate to use as a marker for APDs. Collecting and testing CSF is a delicate and unpleasent procedure, so the team used the single molecule array method developed by Quanterix Corporation and known as Simoa to test levels of NfL in blood samples to see if PD could be distinguished from APD in patients. Three independent cohorts were analysed and, to get straight to the point, strong correlations between blood levels of NfL and levels in the CSF were found.  One of the cohorts known as the Lund group showed that accurate diagnosis of PD or APD using blood NfL is possible.

This is encouraging news as the need for a reliable, accurate and affordable biomarker is essential in order to make real headway towards a cure or at least a drug regime which could prevent progression (if we could diagnose PD before any damage becomes apparent then block it from getting worse we could live a life with PD BUT NO SYMPTOMS – almost as good as a complete cure!).

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