First-of-its-kind Parkinson's biomarker guidelines invigorates drive for treatments

August 15, 2018, Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania
Immunohistochemistry for alpha-synuclein showing positive staining (brown) of an intraneural Lewy-body in the Substantia nigra in Parkinson's disease. Credit: Wikipedia

Parkinson's disease affects more than 4 million people worldwide, with numbers projected to double in the next few decades. With no known cure, there is a race for treatments to slow or stop the progression of the disease. Key to the research and discovery of treatments for Parkinson's is the identification of biomarkers—a measureable biological indicator, such as proteins found in blood, which can help diagnose disease.

Today, a slate of guidelines to shape the future of Parkinson's research have been published in Science Translational Medicine. While previous recommendations have been created to support the research of Parkinson's biomarkers, this is the first developed in collaboration with institutions outside of academic medicine, including The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research.

Biomarkers can not only help predict, diagnose, or monitor , but they can also be used to see how well the body responds to a treatment for a disease or condition. For example, within Alzheimer's disease, measures of the protein beta-amyloid help diagnose the disease, and also serve as a drug target in clinical trials. Similarly, measuring cholesterol levels can help with the diagnosis and treatment of cardiovascular disease.

Lead author Alice Chen-Plotkin, MD, the Parker Family Associate Professor of Neurology in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, led the project in partnership with experts from 36 organizations, including government groups, academic institutions, and non-profit funding agencies, to foster collaboration and discovery of these critical biomarkers.

"These players at times have acted in separate worlds, but with a disease affecting so many and lacking in disease-modifying therapies, we're coming together for essential collaboration and innovation," Chen-Plotkin said. "Biomarkers to bolster our efforts to develop new therapies are urgently needed. These guidelines can help make the discovery of biomarkers for Parkinson's a reality."

The guidelines focus on three areas—recommendations for types of biomarkers researchers should identify in order to aid the development of new treatments, resources for collaboration, and research principles to follow.

Previous research efforts have largely focused on biomarkers that distinguish Parkinson's disease from healthy individuals or those with other such as Alzheimer's disease. However, these guidelines argue for a shift to focus on biomarkers that look within Parkinson's disease itself, as there are many ways the disease manifests in patients. This is an important element for planning clinical trials and developing new treatments.

Researchers have already built an ecosystem of biobanks at different centers across the world, which hold thousands of biological samples including blood and tissue. These biobanks hold many clues that could help propel the next breakthroughs in the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases, and the guidelines list recommended biobanks as a resource for researcher collaborations.

"Before the advent of these shared biobanks, investigators depended on their own ability to collect hundreds or thousands of samples for testing, preventing potential researchers lacking access to large clinical populations from entering the biomarker discovery arena," said Chen-Plotkin. "However, within the last five years, multiple public-private efforts have laid the groundwork for investigators from both academic and industrial sectors to access well-documented clinical samples. These repositories are all open for collaboration to improve the pipeline to take Parkinson's biomarkers from concept to clinic."

The guidelines also include recommendations for biomarker research standards, such as larger sample sizes and replication across multiple patient groups. These principles will harmonize findings, streamlining and advancing the biomarker discovery process.

Ideas in the new paper originated from a Biomarkers Discovery Workshop convened by The Michael J. Fox Foundation in New York in March of 2016. They were further developed in discussions at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke Parkinson's Disease Biomarkers Program annual meeting in Washington, DC, in August, 2016.

Explore further: Biomarkers link fatigue in cancer, Parkinson's

More information: A.S. Chen-Plotkin at University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, PA el al., "Finding useful biomarkers for Parkinson's disease," Science Translational Medicine (2018). stm.sciencemag.org/lookup/doi/ … scitranslmed.aam6003

Related Stories

Biomarkers link fatigue in cancer, Parkinson's

August 9, 2018
Biological markers responsible for extreme exhaustion in patients with cancer have now been linked to fatigue in those with Parkinson's disease, according to new research from Rice University.

New biomarker assay offers hope for Parkinson's patients

February 10, 2016
EU researchers have developed a Parkinson's disease biomarker assay that could lead to early diagnoses and faster, more effective treatments.

New effort to identify Parkinson's biomarkers

March 5, 2013
Last month, the National Institutes of Health announced a new collaborative initiative that aims to accelerate the search for biomarkers—changes in the body that can be used to predict, diagnose or monitor a disease—in ...

Researchers identify biomarkers that may predict cognitive impairment

May 17, 2017
New biomarkers identified by a research team in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania could help predict which Parkinson's disease patients will suffer significant cognitive deficits within the ...

Possible biomarkers for Parkinson's disease identified

February 23, 2012
Scientists at Durin Technologies, Inc., and the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey-School of Osteopathic Medicine (UMDNJ-SOM) have announced a possible breakthrough in the search for a diagnostic biomarker ...

Protein levels in spinal fluid correlate to posture and gait difficulty in Parkinson's

February 21, 2018
Levels of a protein found in the brain called alpha-synuclein (α-syn) are significantly lower than normal in cerebrospinal fluid collected in Parkinson's disease patients suffering from postural instability and gait difficulty, ...

Recommended for you

Researchers find inhibiting one protein destroys toxic clumps seen in Parkinson's disease

November 14, 2018
A defining feature of Parkinson's disease is the clumps of alpha-synuclein protein that accumulate in the brain's motor control area, destroying dopamine-producing neurons. Natural processes can't clear these clusters, known ...

Scalpel-free surgery enhances quality of life for Parkinson's patients, study finds

November 9, 2018
A high-tech form of brain surgery that replaces scalpels with sound waves improved quality of life for people with Parkinson's disease that has resisted other forms of treatment, a new study has found.

Singing may reduce stress, improve motor function for people with Parkinson's disease

November 7, 2018
Singing may provide benefits beyond improving respiratory and swallow control in people with Parkinson's disease, according to new data from Iowa State University researchers.

Scientists overturn odds to make Parkinson's discovery

November 7, 2018
Scientists at the University of Dundee have confirmed that a key cellular pathway that protects the brain from damage is disrupted in Parkinson's patients, raising the possibility of new treatments for the disease.

Road to cell death more clearly identified for Parkinson's disease

November 1, 2018
In experiments performed in mice, Johns Hopkins researchers report they have identified the cascade of cell death events leading to the physical and intellectual degeneration associated with Parkinson's disease.

Appendix removal is linked to lower risk of Parkinson's

October 31, 2018
Scientists have found a new clue that Parkinson's disease may get its start not in the brain but in the gut—maybe in the appendix.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.