Parkinson’s disease can now be detected early!
The conventional method for visualizing brain structures uses a technique most of us are familiar with called
. However, it is not sensitive enough to reveal biological changes in the brains of Parkinson’s patients and is mainly used to rule out other possible diagnoses.
What is the new method for early detection of Parkinson’s disease?
Researchers from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (HU), led by Professor Aviv Mezer, have realized that cellular changes in Parkinson’s disease can be revealed by tweaking a related technique called to be Quantitative MRI (qMRI). Their method has allowed them to look at the microstructures inside the deep part of the brain called the striatum – an organ that is thought to deteriorate during the progression of Parkinson’s disease.
Using a new analytical method developed by Mezer’s doctoral student, Elior Drori, biological changes in the striatum’s cellular tissues were revealed. Furthermore, they demonstrate that these changes are associated with the early stages of Parkinson’s disease and the patient’s motor dysfunction. Their findings were published today in the prestigious journal Science Advances.
qMRI achieves its sensitivity by taking several MRI images using different excitation energies – instead of taking the same photo with different light colors.
The HU researchers used their qMRI analysis to reveal changes in tissue structure in distinct striatal regions. The structural sensitivity of these measurements was previously only achievable in laboratories that examined patients’ brain cells after autopsies. Not the ideal situation for early disease detection or drug efficacy monitoring!
“When you don’t have the measurements, you don’t know what’s normal and what’s abnormal brain structure and what’s changing as the disease progresses,” Mezer explains.
The new information will aid in early diagnosis of the disease and provide “signals” to monitor the effectiveness of future drug therapies. “What we have discovered,” he continued, “is the tip of the iceberg.”
This is a technique they will extend to investigate microstructural changes in other brain regions. More, The team is currently developing qMRI into a tool that can be used in a clinical setting. Mezer predicts that it will take another 3-5 years.
Drori further suggests that this type of analysis will allow for the identification of subgroups in the population with Parkinson’s disease – some may respond differently to certain drugs than others. Ultimately, he sees this analysis as “leading to personalized treatment, allowing future drug discovery with each person receiving the most appropriate drug”.