Skin test may detect Alzheimer's early
Could it be possible to detect debilitating conditions, such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease, early through a simple skin biopsy? A team of scientists at the University of San Luis Potosi in Mexico say their research suggests that kind of test may allow doctors to diagnose the illnesses before there's an irreversible loss of brain tissue.
Since skin originates from the same tissue as the brain in the developing embryo, the researchers wanted to take a closer look at what it might reflect about the condition of a person's brain. They also knew that analysis of the skin of dead people who had Parkinson's showed the same protein deposits that are in the brain.
They recruited 65 participants--12 were healthy, while 53 had Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, or another type of dementia. After taking a small skin biopsy from behind the participants' ears, they found 20 people with Alzheimer’s and 16 people with Parkinson’s had raised levels of two specific proteins, tau and alpha-synuclein. Those proteins have been associated with either Alzheimer's or Parkinson's disease.
The scientists said that more extensive research needs to be done on the skin test, but if it is found to be effective, it could be a minimally invasive way to diagnose and begin treatment of these brain conditions before too much damage is already done.