Can a blood test detect Parkinson’s? How researchers used AI to predict it years in advance

The researchers followed RBD patients for ten years to know if the tool could predict the chances of a patient developing Parkinson's.

ByPTI

Published Jun 19, 2024 | 6:57 PM Updated Jun 19, 2024 | 6:58 PM

Scientists develop blood test to detect Parkinson's

A “simple” blood test could detect Parkinson’s disease up to seven years before symptoms begin to show, according to research published in the journal Nature Communications.

Parkinson’s disease is a neurodegenerative disorder, the symptoms of which include tremors, slowness of movement and gait, and memory problems.

Using machine learning, researchers analysed blood samples of 72 patients with Rapid Eye Movement Behaviour Disorder (RBD), in which they physically act out their dreams without knowing it. Machine learning is a type of artificial intelligence which learns from past data to make future predictions.

The team of researchers, led by those at the University College London, UK, said that it is known that about 75-80 percent of people having RBD go on to develop an abnormal build-up of alpha-synuclein protein in their brains – also seen in people with Parkinson’s disease.

Upon analysing the blood samples, the machine learning tool, developed by the researchers, found that almost 80 percent of the 72 RBD patients had the same profile as an individual having ageing-related neurodegenerative disease.

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The researchers also tested the tool to know if it could predict the chances of a patient developing Parkinson’s. For this, the RBD patients were followed up for ten years.

The researchers found that the tool correctly predicted 16 patients to develop the neurodegenerative condition and could do this up to seven years before the onset of any symptoms.

“By determining eight proteins in the blood, we can identify potential Parkinson’s patients several years in advance. This means that drug therapies could potentially be given at an earlier stage, which could possibly slow down disease progression or even prevent it from occurring,” said first author Michael Bartl, University Medical Center Goettingen, Germany.

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