Unraveling neurodegenerative diseases with a new diagnostic tool

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Synucleinopathies are a group of brain disorders caused by a protein called α-synuclein building up in the brain.

Normally, this protein helps neurons, or brain cells, do their jobs.

But in these diseases, the protein folds incorrectly and forms “seeds” that attract more α-synuclein, causing bigger clumps to form.

This buildup can lead to diseases like Parkinson’s disease, dementia with Lewy bodies, and multiple system atrophy.

What’s the Problem?

Even though these α-synuclein seeds can be found in different tissues and blood of people with these diseases, it’s not clear if they can be used to detect these diseases early or monitor their progression.

Furthermore, current diagnostic methods often require the collection of cerebrospinal fluid which is a more invasive procedure.

The Breakthrough

Scientists from Juntendo University School of Medicine and Nagasaki University School of Medicine have developed a new test that can detect α-synuclein seeds in a patient’s blood serum, the liquid part of blood.

This test, called immunoprecipitation-based real-time quaking-induced conversion (IP/RT-QuIC), works by using antibodies to pull out α-synuclein seeds from the serum.

These seeds are then shaken vigorously to encourage them to multiply, which makes them easier to detect. This method can detect even very small amounts of α-synuclein seeds, down to 1000pg/ml.

What Did They Discover?

The scientists found that their new test was very good at finding α-synuclein seeds in people with neurodegenerative diseases and distinguishing them from healthy people.

They also found that the seeds looked different depending on the type of disease the person had.

The seeds from people with Parkinson’s disease and dementia with Lewy bodies looked like paired filaments, while the seeds from people with multiple system atrophy were either twisted or straight.

They confirmed these findings using transmission electron microscopy, a powerful imaging tool.

What Does This Mean?

This new test could make it easier and faster to diagnose these brain disorders.

Instead of needing a neurologist’s consultation, a general internist could use this test to make a diagnosis. This could help more people get a precise diagnosis and start treatment earlier.

Additionally, this test could be used to monitor how these diseases progress or how well treatments are working.

The authors hope that this simple diagnostic method could lead to personalized treatment options for people with these diseases.

In conclusion, this breakthrough has shown that α-synuclein seeds not only play a significant role in the progression of synucleinopathies but can also be potential biomarkers for these diseases.

This presents an exciting development in the field of neurodegenerative diseases.

If you care about brain health, please read studies about very strong brain abnormalities post-COVID, and flavonoid-rich foods could help prevent dementia.

For more information about brain health, please see recent studies that cranberries could help boost memory, and how alcohol, coffee and tea intake influence cognitive decline.

The study was published in Nature Medicine.

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