PHOENIX, (July 18, 2013) — Researchers from Mayo Clinic in Arizona and Banner Sun Health Research Institute are working together on a diagnostic test to identify early Parkinson's disease in patients thanks to a $152,486 grant from The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research. Currently, there is no accurate diagnostic test for early Parkinson's disease. The researchers believe that a procedure termed transcutaneous submandibular gland biopsy may prove to provide the needed accuracy. The test involves inserting a needle into the submandibular gland, located under the jaw, and then withdrawing the needle to obtain the core of gland tissue within. The researchers will look for a protein in the cells from patients who have early Parkinson's disease and compare this to subjects without the disease. The researchers have previously found the protein in subjects with advanced Parkinson's disease more than five years and now are studying people with early Parkinson's less than five years).
Study participants must first have a neurological research exam visit at Mayo Clinic in Arizona by Charles Adler, M.D., Ph.D., Professor of Neurology and principal investigator of the study. They will then undergo a radioactive scan that detects brain signs of the disease followed by the submandibular gland biopsy as an outpatient procedure done in the office at Mayo Clinic. The biopsy tissue will then be tested for the Parkinson's disease protein at Banner Sun Health Research Institute by Thomas Beach, M.D., Ph.D., the co-principal investigator of the study. The study requires that participants be 18 to 85 years old and have Parkinson's disease for less than five years.
"We're hoping our biopsy will be 80 to 90-percent accurate in these early-stage patients, just like it was for the later-stage patients," said Thomas Beach, MD, PhD, who is the senior scientist and director of the Civin Lab for Neuropathology at Banner Sun Health Research Institute. "This study is critical because we can then try to stop it (Parkinson's) in its early stage." The procedure may also be useful in guiding the selection of patients for experimental therapies.
"There is currently no diagnostic test for Parkinson's disease," said Dr. Adler. "We have previously shown in some patients with advanced Parkinson's, as well as in autopsies of Parkinson's patients, that the abnormal proteins associated with Parkinson's are consistently found in the submandibular saliva glands, found under the lower jaw. Making a diagnosis in living patients will be a big step forward in our effort to understand and better treat patients."
For 26 years, Banner Sun Health Research Institute, part of nonprofit Banner Health, has been a leader nationally and internationally in the effort to find answers to disorders of aging including Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease. The institute, together with its Arizona Alzheimer's Consortium partners, has been designated by the National Institutes of Health as one of just 29 Alzheimer's disease Centers in the nation. The institute's Cleo Roberts Center for Clinical Research takes laboratory discoveries to clinical trials that foster hope for new treatments. Banner Health is Arizona's leading health care provider and second largest private employer.
As the world's largest funder of Parkinson's research, The Michael J. Fox Foundation is dedicated to accelerating a cure for Parkinson's disease and improved therapies for those living with the condition today. The Foundation pursues its goals through an aggressively funded, highly targeted research programs coupled with active global engagement of scientists, Parkinson's patients, business leaders, clinical trial participants, donors and volunteers. In addition to funding more than $325 million in research to date, the Foundation has fundamentally altered the trajectory of progress toward a cure. Operating at the hub of worldwide Parkinson's research, the Foundation forges groundbreaking collaborations with industry leaders, academic scientists and government research funders; increases the flow of participants into Parkinson's disease clinical trials with its online tool, Fox Trial Finder; promotes Parkinson's awareness through high-profile advocacy, events and outreach; and coordinates the grassroots involvement of thousands of Team Fox members around the world.