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Could A Skin Test Give Hints About Parkinson's, Alzheimer's Disease?

First Posted: Feb 24, 2015 10:27 PM EST

Could a skin test one day provide hints about Alzheimer's or Parkinson's disease?

A presentation that will be released in April at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurology (AAN) in Washington, D.C., which will discuss how skin biopsies can reveal elevated levels of abnormal proteins associated with the two disorders.

"We hypothesized that since skin has the same origin as brain tissue while in the embryo, that they might also show the same abnormal proteins," said study author Dr. Ildefonso Rodriguez-Leyva, of the Central Hospital at the University of San Luis Potosi in Mexico, in a news release. "This new test offers a potential biomarker that may allow doctors to identify and diagnose these diseases earlier on."

For the study, researchers took skin biopsies from 20 Alzheimer's disease patients, 16 Parkinson's disease patients, 17 patients with non-Alzheimer's dementia and 12 health individuals.

Study results revealed that those with Alzheimer's and Parkinson's had seven times higher levels of a protein known as tau in their skin than others. Researchers also discovered that Parkinson's patients had eight times higher levels of a protein known as alpha-synuclein when compared with health people.

Of course, more research is needed, but the findings are certainly promising.

"This procedure could be used to study not only Alzheimer's and Parkinson's, but also other neurodegenerative diseases," Rodriguez-Leyva said.

However, some researchers also added that until the information is published in a peer-reviewed journal, the findings are preliminary without more studies.

"Similar claims [for diagnostic tests] have been made for a decade or more, but none have held up to scrutiny or independent replication," said Dr. Samuel Gandy, associate director of the Alzheimer's Disease Research Center at Mount Sinai, in New York City.

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