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New research brings new hope during Parkinson’s Disease Awareness Month

In what researchers are calling “an enormous leap forward in the understanding of Parkinson’s disease,” a new tool has been discovered that can detect pathology in spinal fluid of people who have not yet been diagnosed or exhibited clinical symptoms of the disease but are at a high risk of developing it.

The new research, published last week in the journal Lancet Neurology, describes the use of α-synuclein seeding amplification assay (αSyn-SAA), a technique to amplify then analyze clusters of the tiny protein that builds up in the brains of those with the disease. This new tool could open the door to early detection of abnormal alpha-synuclein – known as the “Parkinson’s protein.”

Parkinson’s is a degenerative syndrome that results in the gradual loss of brain circuitry involved in movement, thinking and behavior. It is the fastest-growing neurodegenerative condition in the U.S. and it affects more than 8.5 million people worldwide, according to the World Health Organization.

April is designated as Parkinson’s Disease Awareness Month. “While there is no cure yet for Parkinson’s disease, early intervention can help to manage symptoms and improve quality of life,” said Raymond A. James, D.O., Boca Grande Health Clinic Medical Director.

“The more we know about Parkinson’s, the better we get at treating it – and hopefully in the not-too-distant future – finding ways to cure and prevent the disease,” said Dr. James. “New therapies involving stem cell replacement and others aimed at stopping or slowing disease progression will come.”

Parkinson’s disease affects people of all ages, but it is most common in individuals over the age of 60. The disease progresses slowly over time. Common symptoms include tremors, stiffness and difficulty with movement and coordination. As the disease progresses, symptoms may become more severe, leading to difficulties with balance, speech and other basic activities of daily living.

Treatments are available to manage Parkinson’s symptoms. Medications such as Levodopa and dopamine agonists can help to alleviate symptoms, while physical therapy and exercise can improve mobility and balance. In some cases, deep brain stimulation surgery may be recommended to help control symptoms.

Helpful Resources

  • The Michael J. Fox Foundation has developed resources to help individuals and families move through the earliest days with Parkinson’s disease (PD) and beyond:
  • The American Parkinson Disease Association’s nationwide network provides information and referral, education and support programs, health and wellness activities, and other events to facilitate a better quality of life, while also funding vital research:

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