New Biomarker for Parkinson’s Disease

Research published in the journal Brain describes blood biomarkers that can identify the likelihood for cognitive impairment in people with Parkinson’s disease. National Institute on Aging researchers, along with investigators in New Zealand and France, collected blood samples from more than 200 people — one group with Parkinson’s disease and standard cognition and one with Parkinson’s disease and cognitive impairment or dementia. 

The researchers compared three proteins involved in neurodegenerative diseases and found that samples from the group with Parkinson’s and cognitive impairment or dementia had less of biomarkers alpha-synuclein and insulin receptor substrate-1 than the samples from people with Parkinson’s and standard cognition. The samples also had more of the biomarker phosphorylated tau.

Aikaterini Markopoulou, MD, PhD, neurologist and movement disorder specialist at NorthShore University HealthSystem, says this finding can help physicians adjust medications to treat Parkinson’s cognitive effects. The research can also guide caregivers and family with future planning. 

“Even though the cause of cognitive impairment in Parkinson’s cannot be cured at this point, [the research] can still have an impact on quality of life for patients, families, and their caregivers.” Markopoulou says. 

She adds that, though helpful, the research still needs validation from other studies before wider clinical application.

Originally published in the Summer/Fall 2023 print issue.