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Skin Biopsy Test for PD

At this point in time, there is no one test to diagnose Parkinson’s disease. Parkinson’s, along with a few other neurological conditions, involves the accumulation of an abnormal version of the protein alpha-synuclein. This is called phosphorylated alpha-synclein (P-SYN). A recent study in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed that small amounts of skin can be analyzed to detect P-SYN in those who have an abnormal version of alpha-synuclein.

The study included 277 people with PD or other neurodegenerative conditions involving alpha-synuclein and 151 people without a diagnosis. Each study subject had 3 skin biopsies. For those with Parkinson’s, 92.7% of them showed a positive biopsy for P-SYN. Of those without a neurodegenerative disease, only 3.3% of them had a positive biopsy. There was also a correlation found between the quantity of P-SYN discovered in the biopsies and the severity of one’s symptoms. This means that those who had more P-SYN also had more severe symptoms.

The researchers from the study hypothesize that the accumulation of P-SYN begins before there are clinical signs of Parkinson’s like tremor, balance changes, postural changes, etc. The researchers also hypothesized that the small percentage of those who tested positive but do not currently have a neurodegenerative diagnosis may receive a diagnosis in the future. 

This test brings an exciting possibility that Parkinson's can be detected sooner and treated more effectively. Of course, there needs to be more research in order to determine the accuracy and validity of a skin test for PD. Currently there is no way to know how early this test can be used. Can it be used accurately before someone has symptoms? Does there have to be a specific amount of P-SYN in the biopsy to classify it as a positive test? Would this test help determine treatment effectiveness? All questions I hope to see answered by researches soon.

Currently, there is a skin biopsy test that is available for purchase called Syn-One Test. According to Syn-One Test, Medicare can cover part of the fee, typically around 80%. Other insurances may vary. If you are already diagnosed with PD, this skin biopsy test will not add any clinical value and will not help guide your medical team on treatments. 




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