Blood Bio-Marker Found for Cognitive Impairment in Parkinson’s Disease “There currently is no cure for PARKINSON’S, but the earlier we catch it–the better chance we have to fight it,” says Michelle Mielke, Ph.D.
Dr. Mielke is a researcher at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. She is studying blood based bio-markers for PARKINSON’S DISEASE, as a simpler, less expensive , less invasive technique for diagnosing this disease than brain scans or spinal taps which are sometimes used. (A “blood bio-marker” test uses a protein in the blood or urine as a marker for what is going on inside the body. The best known biomarker test is a home pregnancy test which works on the same principle.*)
Her laboratory has found a specific but very rare genetic mutation that can lead to early onset PARKINSON’S DISEASE cognitive impairments. This occurs in only 4 to 7 per cent of PARKINSON’S DISEASE patients. The mutation is called GBA and it is a marker of lipids in the blood. This mutation causes lipids, ceramides and glucosylceramides to be incorrectly metabolized. They found that people with PARKINSON’S DISEASE who have higher levels of lipids in their blood are more at risk for developing dementias or cognitive impairments.
Cognitive impairments in PARKIINSON’S DISEASE together with the other symptoms of PARKINSON’S DISEASE are very challenging for both the patients and their caregivers. If a blood bio-marker such as this can help diagnose patients who are at greater risk earlier, it might lead to a treatment to slow the progression or reverse some of the damage.
About Dr. Mielke
The principal research interests of Michelle M. Mielke, Ph.D., are to further the understanding of the epidemiology of neurodegenerative diseases and psychiatric disorders.
A primary focus of Dr. Mielke’s research is the identification of biomarkers for the diagnosis, prediction and/or progression of Alzheimer’s disease, as well as other neurodegenerative and neuropsychiatric conditions.
Much of her work has emphasized both lipid markers — particularly sphingolipids (ceramides and sphingomyelins) — and neuroimaging markers.