Blood test can predict Parkinson's seven years before onset of symptoms

Scientists have created a blood test that uses artificial intelligence (PA Archive)
Scientists have created a blood test that uses artificial intelligence (PA Archive)

Scientists have created a blood test that uses artificial intelligence to predict Parkinson's up to seven years before the onset of symptoms.

The test uses AI to predict the disease, which is caused by the death of nerve cells in the part of the brain that controls movement.

When these cells die or become impaired, they lose the ability to create a chemical called dopamine.

Currently, people with Parkinson’s are treated with dopamine replacement therapy after they have already developed symptoms, such as tremor, slowness of movement and gait, and memory problems.

But researchers believe that early prediction and diagnosis could help to find treatments that could slow or stop the disease.

Scientists at University College London developed an AI tool that analysed blood from 72 patients with Rapid Eye Movement Behaviour Disorder. Around 80 per cent of people with the disease go on to develop a synucleinopathy - a type of brain disorder caused by the abnormal build-up of a protein called alpha-synuclein in brain cells – including Parkinson’s.

The patients were followed up over 10 years and researchers say the AI correctly predicted that 16 patients would go on to develop the disease, seven years before the onset of any symptoms.

Parkinson’s is the world’s fastest growing neurodegenerative disorder and currently affects nearly 10 million people across the globe.

According to Parkinson’s UK, around one in 37 people alive today in the UK will be diagnosed with Parkinson’s in their lifetime.

Professor David Dexter, Director of Research at Parkinson’s UK, said: “This research, co-funded by Parkinson’s UK, represents a major step forward in the search for a definitive and patient friendly diagnostic test for Parkinson’s.

"Finding biological markers that can be identified and measured in the blood is much less invasive than a lumbar puncture, which is being used more and more in clinical research."

Senior author Professor Kevin Mills, of UCL Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health, said: “As new therapies become available to treat Parkinson’s, we need to diagnose patients before they have developed the symptoms.

“We cannot regrow our brain cells and therefore we need to protect those that we have.

“At present we are shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted and we need to start experimental treatments before patients develop symptoms.”