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The First Biological Staging System for Parkinson’s

There was a major stride made in medical testing with Parkinson's disease! An international team of patients, research leaders, and industry leaders have proposed the first framework for staging Parkinson's based on biology. Currently, Parkinson's stages are based on clinical symptom presentation, not the biological changes that happen in our body. Welcome the neuronal alpha-synuclein disease integrated staging system (NSD-ISS), the first biological staging system for PD. This is a very exciting step forward for the PD community as a whole.

The new classification uses biomarkers that can objectively test and detect Parkinson's disease. This has a huge impact on how future research is conducted and ultimately the results gained from the research! When you boil it down, this can have a direct effect on finding treatments that target the biology of the disease instead of just the symptoms. Yes, you read that right. This is a huge step forward to finding a cure.

A new biomarker, the aSyn-seeding amplification assay (SAA), can detect the presence of alpha-synuclein (aSyn) in the spinal fluid. aSyn is the protein that misfolds, clumps, and damages the brain over the course of Parkinson's disease. The biomarker was validated in April of last year by the Michael J. Fox Foundation's Parkinson's Progression Markers Initiative. This led to a system for staging the disease that contributes to the risk of PD, diagnosis, and functional impairments. A person's stage with the disease can be concluded based on their biological profile, the presence of aSyn, and the amount of dopamine they have in their brain.

The NSD-ISS will lead to more efficient testing to be created from biopharma companies and more accurate assessments of treatment effectiveness. The NSD-ISS is thought to help fasten the development of treatments and lead to more scientific discovery. The NSD-ISS will be applied to research immediately, and according to the Michael J Fox Foundation, it is expected to "quickly enable novel insights and disease measures." They hope that after the science community learns more about the biology of Parkinson's, how it changes, and when it changes, this framework and the biomarkers discovered can be a routine part of practice to ensure you receive the most effective and personalized treatment.

Peter DiBiaso, MHSA who is one of the authors on the paper about the new framework and is member of MJFF’s Patient Council who was diagnosed with PD at 49 years old stated “it’s still early, but this framework will have an immediate impact in terms of how we’re designing clinical protocols and optimizing research that can lead to better treatments that patients are waiting for. We know there's a lot of work to be done, but this is the most important first step the field can take together to rapidly advance breakthroughs for patients and families.”  

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