Breakthrough blood test may detect Parkinson’s years before symptoms

New AI-powered screening could revolutionize early diagnosis and treatment

A revolutionary new blood test may be able to identify Parkinson’s disease up to seven years before symptoms appear, according to a study published this week in the journal Nature Communcations. This early detection method could transform how we diagnose and treat this devastating neurological condition.

The research, conducted by teams at University College London and University Medical Center Goettingen, introduces an artificial intelligence tool that analyzes blood samples for biomarkers linked to Parkinson’s. The study involved testing 72 individuals with Rapid Eye Movement sleep behavior disorder, a condition characterized by physically acting out dreams. Approximately 75% to 80% of RBD patients eventually develop neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s, according to the study.

Remarkably, the AI correctly identified 79% of the RBD patients as having blood profiles matching Parkinson’s. The system predicted Parkinson’s in 16 individuals an average of seven years before symptom onset, showcasing its potential for very early detection.

“By determining eight proteins in the blood, we can identify potential Parkinson’s patients several years in advance,” Dr. Michael Bartl, a study co-first author, explained in a news release. “This means that drug therapies could potentially be given at an earlier stage, which could possibly slow down disease progression or even prevent it from occurring,” he added.

Parkinson’s disease is a progressive disorder that affects the nervous system and the body parts controlled by the nerves, according to the Mayo Clinic. Symptoms typically begin gradually, often with a barely noticeable tremor in one hand. While tremors are common, the disorder may also cause stiffness or a slowing of movement. Early signs of Parkinson’s can include reduced facial expression, decreased arm swing when walking and soft or slurred speech. Symptoms worsen as the disease advances.

Currently, Parkinson’s is diagnosed through clinical evaluations, medical history and neurological exams, with no definitive test available, making early detection challenging, the Mayo Clinic noted. This new blood test could allow for proactive treatment long before motor symptoms emerge.

If validated, the test could mean a new era in Parkinson’s management, shifting the focus from reactive treatment to proactive prevention. For the millions at risk of developing the disease, it offers hope.