Researchers are developing a new method to diagnose early-stage Parkinson’s disease

ALICANTE (EP). Researchers from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (HU), in Israel, found that cellular changes in Parkinson’s disease could be revealed by adapting a technique known as quantitative magnetic resonance imaging (qMRI). Their method allowed them to examine microstructures in the part of the deep brain known as the striatum, an organ known to deteriorate as Parkinson’s disease progressesas published in the journal “Science Advances”.

The usual method for visualizing the structure of the brain uses magnetic resonance imaging. However, it is not sensitive enough to reveal biological changes occurring in the brains of patients with Parkinson’s disease and is currently used primarily only to exclude other possible diagnoses.

Using a new method of analysis, developed by the doctoral student from Mezer, Elior Drori, the biological changes in the cell tissue of the striatum were clearly revealed. Furthermore, they were able to show that these changes were associated with the early stages of Parkinson’s disease and movement dysfunction in patients.

qMRI achieves its sensitivity by taking multiple MRI images using different excitation energies, much like taking the same photograph under different lighting colors.

The UH researchers were able to use their qMRI analysis to reveal changes in tissue structure in distinct regions of the striatum. The structural sensitivity of these measurements had previously only been obtained in laboratories examining brain cells from post-mortem patients. This is not an ideal situation for detecting disease early or monitoring the effectiveness of a drug, the authors explain.

“When you don’t have measurements, you don’t know what’s normal and what’s abnormal in brain structure, and what changes as the disease progresses,” Mezer adds. The new information will facilitate early diagnosis of the disease and provide markers to monitor the effectiveness of future drug therapies.

“What we have discovered – he assures – is only the tip of the iceberg”. It’s a technique they will now develop to study microstructural changes in other regions of the brain. In addition, the team is currently developing qMRI into a tool that can be used in the clinical setting. Mezer foresees this in 3 to 5 years.

Drori further suggests that this type of analysis will allow the identification of subgroups within the population with Parkinson’s disease, some of which may respond differently to certain medications than to others. Ultimately, he believes this analysis will “lead to personalized treatment, enabling future drug discovery in which each person receives the most appropriate drug.”

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