A Test For Parkinson’s Disease?

Protein found in saliva glands could hold the key for diagnosing Parkinsons Disease

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) There is currently no foolproof way to diagnose Parkinson’s disease (PD). Although a neurological exam and a review of the patient’s medical history can give a doctor insight to the possibility of PD, a test for the disease could save time and eliminate uncertainties.

A recent small study looked at protein detection in the salivary glands to determine if a person had PD. In this study, 82 percent of viable samples from PD patients contained the protein.

The results suggest that a person’s salivary glands can be used to diagnose Parkinson’s disease (PD).

"See a doctor if you notice a muscle tremor."

Charles Adler, MD, PhD, of the Mayo Clinic Arizona and colleagues conducted biopsies of salivary glands in 15 PD patients. The biopsies were taken from the submandibular salivary glands and minor salivary glands to test for proteins associated with PD.

The submandibular glands are a pair of glands located beneath the lower jaw. The minor salivary glands are located in the lower lip.

Eleven of the fifteen samples were usable. Four of the submandibular gland samples did not contain enough tissue for testing.

Of the eleven viable samples, nine had the abnormal protein.

PD is is a degenerative disorder of the central nervous system. Symptoms vary from person to person and progressively get worse with time. Patients typically have difficulty with movement and experience tremors, rigidity and slowness.

PD is a clinical diagnosis that sometimes gets changed to other related conditions as the condition progresses. Other conditions with symptoms similar to those experienced with PD are Alzheimer’s disease, multiple cerebral infarction and drug induced Parkinsonism.

Currently, it is recommended that a PD diagnosis be periodically reviewed due to the potential of misdiagnosis.

This study was the first to show that salivary glands may be used as a diagnostic tool for PD.

In the future these biopsies may be used to verify diagnosis. This verification is particularly important to those considering any invasive PD treatment, like deep brain stimulation or gene therapy.

The study was funded by the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research and will be presented at the American Academy of Neurology’s 65th Annual Meeting in San Diego. Research presented at academic meetings should be considered preliminary until published in a peer reviewed journal.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
January 6, 2013
Last Updated:
January 22, 2013