Australian Study Finds Way to Detect Parkinson’s Prior to Symptom Onset

November 3, 2023 12:09:06

New research has demonstrated that it is possible to detect signs of Parkinson’s disease through the introduction of a synthetic compound into patients’ bodies. The research was carried out by scientists at the Florey Institute and Austin Health in Australia. The focus of the research was to highlight the changes in the brain that marked disease progression before patients began to present with other symptoms.

For their study, the scientists recruited 26 patients with Parkinson’s disease, 11 with rapid eye movement (REM) sleep behavior disorder and 12 others who made up the control group. REM sleep behavior disorder is common in patients with Parkinson’s disease.

The researchers used currently available assessments for Parkinson’s disease and determined that there were no considerable changes in clinical symptoms in any of those involved. Each individual was also required to take two PET scans, spaced two years apart.

To determine illness progression, the researchers injected every patient with 18F-AV-133, a synthetic compound designed to bind to the VMAT2 protein in the brain. VMAT2 is a protein needed to regulate neurotransmitters. Evidence has shown that this protein’s deficiency is linked to Parkinson’s disease.

The researchers observed that F-AV-133 was more concentrated in areas in the brain where VMAT2 was active. They then carried out PET scans to capture images showing areas of activity and the strength of VMAT2 in the brain, helping create an imaging biomarker. When examining the scans, the researchers observed considerable neuronal loss in an area of the brain in patients with REM sleep disorder and three areas of the brain in Parkinson’s patients. This, they noted, suggested that F-AV-A133 was a more sensitive way to monitor neurodegeneration.

The lead researcher of the study, Professor Kevin Barnham, stated that Parkinson’s disease was thought to be an illness of old age when it actually started developing in midlife and progressed undetected for years. He observed that the disease was hard to diagnose until physical symptoms began to present, and by that time, more than 80% of neurons in the brain that controlled motor coordination had been destroyed. At this point, he added, most treatments would likely be ineffective.

Barnham revealed that their long-term research goal was to find ways to detect Parkinson’s much earlier and treat people before the damage was done. The professor also noted that further mathematical modelling carried out on their data had determined that the imaging biomarker could possibly detect Parkinson’s disease decades before symptoms began to present.

The study’s findings were reported in the “Neurology” journal.

The growing toll of neurodegenerative diseases has prompted various enterprises such as Clene Inc. (NASDAQ: CLNN) to devote considerable resources toward developing effective treatments for ailments such as Parkinson’s disease.

NOTE TO INVESTORS: The latest news and updates relating to Clene Inc. (NASDAQ: CLNN) are available in the company’s newsroom at

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