A new blood test developed by scientists in Australia has the potential to detect Parkinson's disease in people early, allowing doctors to come up with appropriate intervention measures and treatment for the debilitating illness.

People who suffer from symptoms of Parkinson's disease typically have to undergo several tests before medical experts can provide proper diagnosis of the condition.

Since the disease shows signs and symptoms similar to other neurological disorders, doctors have to eliminate all other potential causes to reduce the risk of having a patient treated for the wrong illness.

To avoid such dangers in Parkinson's disease diagnosis, microbiologist Paul Fisher and his colleagues at La Trobe University in Melbourne have developed a new form of blood analysis that can be used to better identify this specific neurological condition in individuals.

Scientists have long believed that Parkinson's disease was somehow connected to a buildup of toxic byproducts produced by a defect in the cell's mitochondria. However, the La Trobe researchers discovered that Parkinson's patients do not show any damaging to the mitochondria of their cells.

Instead of seeing defects, the team noticed that the mitochondria were actually working four times harder than normal, which causes them to produce higher amounts of toxic byproducts.

Fisher said that finding out why such poisonous materials are being produced could provide scientists with new avenues to discover better treatments for Parkinson's disease.

So far, the new Parkinson's diagnostic had been tested on 38 people, with 29 of them having been diagnosed with the neurological disease and nine healthy individuals that served as the control group. The test successfully identified the hyperactive mitochondria often seen in people with Parkinson's disease.

Fisher and his team have been granted more than $640,000 worth of funds by the Michael J Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research and the Shake It Up Australia Foundation to continue their work on the new blood test.

The funding allows them to carry out further tests in order to find out whether hyperactivity in the cell's mitochondria is also seen in patients suffering from other neurological conditions such as Alzheimer's disease or if it is exclusive to Parkinson's sufferers.

Photo: Alden Chadwick | Flickr 

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