Parkinson’s disease progressively destroys certain cells in the brain, particularly those involved in movement, which is why patients tend to suffer from tremors, stiffness, and other mobility problems. Because assessing such physical symptoms can be subjective, researchers have been hunting for what’s known as a 'biomarker' of disease: a precisely measurable factor that accurately reflects disease progression. Now, by examining the brains of Parkinson’s patients, it seems they’ve found one. Scans of patients’ brains showed that activity in two brain regions – the putamen (coloured blobs) and the motor cortex – reduced as the disease worsened. The scan on the right, for example, was taken a year later than that on the left and shows a clear decrease in the red signal (activity). By monitoring this specific activity doctors should have a more definitive view of disease progression and, importantly, of whether any new drugs may be halting or reversing brain degeneration.
Written by Ruth Williams
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