Parkinson's disease is a neurodegenerative disorder that develops slowly in most people and afflicts an estimated 7 to 10 million individuals around the world.

In June, a Mayo Clinic report revealed that the prevalence of Parkinson's disease has significantly increased in the last three decades.

According to the National Parkinson Foundation, this neurodegenerative disease itself is not fatal, but the complications that can arise from it are severe.

Like Alzheimer's disease, there is currently no cure for Parkinson's, and so early detection of the symptoms could prove helpful in alleviating its effects. Furthermore, any research that may aid in finding an effective treatment would be a major breakthrough.

Indeed, a new study revealed that a biomarker found in the urine of patients may potentially help in the development of Parkinson's disease treatments.

Finding A Biomarker

Biomarkers often help doctors diagnose, predict or monitor diseases, because the biomarker matches to the presence or risk of the disease. The levels of biomarkers may change as the disease progresses.

In the hopes of finding a biomarker for Parkinson's, experts have been storing samples of urine and cerebral spinal fluid from Parkinson's patients in the freezers of the NINDS National Repository for five years.

Led by Andrew West, scientists from the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) found that the tubes contain a new type of biomarker that correlates with the presence of Parkinson's and the disease's severity. West says nobody thought they would be able to investigate this biomaker activity in biofluids.

"[I]t is usually found inside neurons in the brain," says West.

Results Of The Investigation

West and his team measured Leucine-rich repeat kinase 2 (LRRK2) levels in the exosomes — located in urine, saliva and other human biofluids — from 79 patients with Parkinson's disease, as well as those of 79 healthy participants.

They discovered the presence of the LRRK2 protein in the urine samples. West says this means that they can track both the disease and the effectiveness of experimental treatments.

They also found that approximately 2 to 3 percent of the samples contained a mutation in the LRRK2. However, researchers also discovered that there were LRRK2 proteins in the urine samples of patients with and without the specific mutation.

A past study has shown that LRRK2 can be spotted in the urine of patients who possess the mutation after purifying it from exosomes.

Additionally, researchers discovered that high levels of LRRK2 proteins corresponded with the severity of the disease's effects, such as cognitive impairment and disruption of daily activities.

Details of the new study are featured in the journal Movement Disorders.

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