Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

The skin as a window to the brain

12.05.2014

Diagnosing Parkinson's disease is difficult, especially in the early stage of the disease. Neurologists of the University Hospital of Würzburg have now shown a way that could be beneficial to both early diagnosis and research. They found the key in the patients' skin.

A definite diagnosis is only possible post-mortem. Only then can pathologists examine the brain for typical depositions of the protein alpha-synuclein in the nerve cells of specific brain regions and thus reliably diagnose Parkinson's disease (PD).

Before that, physicians have to rely on a number of typical symptoms which are indicative of Parkinson's disease. The diagnosis is obvious in patients who move slowly, have a limited range of motion, stiff muscles and tremors at rest or have difficulty keeping their balance. But these symptoms only occur in the advanced stage of the disease; until then, the diagnosis remains extremely uncertain.

Depositions in cutaneous nerve fibres

This could change in the foreseeable future: Neurologists from Würzburg found out that in about half of the PD patients the alpha-synuclein depositions are also detectable in the small nerve fibres of the skin. Since the skin is much easier to access than the brain, Professor Claudia Sommer and her team are hopeful to reliably diagnose the disease pre-mortem in the future by means of a simple skin biopsy. And what is more, the scientists believe that this will allow them to investigate the disease mechanism in the skin, which is still largely unknown. The results of the study have just been published in the magazine Acta Neuropathologica.

The study

31 PD patients from the neurological department of the University Hospital of Würzburg and from the Paracelsus Elena Hospital in Kassel and 35 healthy controls participated in the study. Small skin biopsies were taken from all participants at the lower and upper leg, index finger and back. Additionally, the scientists conducted a number of further examinations to exclude other causes of nerve damage.

"We identified phosphorylated alpha-synuclein in the histological samples of 16 PD patients but in none of the controls," first-time author Kathrin Doppler sums up the study results. In other words: Whereas about every second PD patient exhibited the typical depositions, they did not occur in any of the healthy controls.

The scientists made another finding that is interesting for an early diagnosis: "Alpha-synuclein occurred equally in patients in early and late stages of the disease," Kathrin Doppler explains. She pointed out that this was unrelated to the course of the disease.

Identical changes in the skin and in the brain

The scientists most frequently encountered alpha-synuclein in skin biopsies from the back of patients. They also registered a decreased number of nerve fibres in patients with Parkinson's disease compared to the healthy controls. They reported that the types of nerve fibres affected were similar to those in the brain of PD patients. The scientists take this as a promising sign that "the changes in the skin of PD patients are reflective of features of brain pathology, which could render it a useful tool for pathogenetic studies".

In a follow-up study, the Würzburg scientists are characterising the cutaneous alpha-synuclein depositions in greater detail to learn more about their effects on the function and survival of nerve fibres. In doing so, they hope to shed more light on the disease mechanism which is still largely unknown.

The work was funded by the First-time Applicant Program of the Interdisciplinary Center for Clinical Research (IZKF) of the University Hospital of Würzburg.

"Cutaneous neuropathy in Parkinson’s disease: a window into brain pathology" Kathrin Doppler, Sönke Ebert, Nurcan Üçeyler, Claudia Trenkwalder, Jens Ebentheuer, Jens Volkmann, Claudia Sommer; published online on 04 Mai 2014, doi: 10.1007/s00401-014-1284-0

Contact

Dr. Kathrin Doppler, T: +49-931-201-23787, Doppler_k@ukw.de
Prof. Dr. Claudia Sommer, sommer@uni-wuerzburg.de

Gunnar Bartsch | idw - Informationsdienst Wissenschaft
Further information:
http://www.uni-wuerzburg.de

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht New Computer Model Could Explain how Simple Molecules Took First Step Toward Life
29.07.2015 | Brookhaven National Laboratory

nachricht Switch for building barrier in roots
29.07.2015 | The University of Tokyo

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Superfast fluorescence sets new speed record

Plasmonic device has speed and efficiency to serve optical computers

Researchers have developed an ultrafast light-emitting device that can flip on and off 90 billion times a second and could form the basis of optical computing.

Im Focus: Unlocking the rice immune system

Joint BioEnergy Institute study identifies bacterial protein that is key to protecting rice against bacterial blight

A bacterial signal that when recognized by rice plants enables the plants to resist a devastating blight disease has been identified by a multi-national team...

Im Focus: Smarter window materials can control light and energy

Researchers in the Cockrell School of Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin are one step closer to delivering smart windows with a new level of energy efficiency, engineering materials that allow windows to reveal light without transferring heat and, conversely, to block light while allowing heat transmission, as described in two new research papers.

By allowing indoor occupants to more precisely control the energy and sunlight passing through a window, the new materials could significantly reduce costs for...

Im Focus: Simulations lead to design of near-frictionless material

Argonne scientists used Mira to identify and improve a new mechanism for eliminating friction, which fed into the development of a hybrid material that exhibited superlubricity at the macroscale for the first time. Argonne Leadership Computing Facility (ALCF) researchers helped enable the groundbreaking simulations by overcoming a performance bottleneck that doubled the speed of the team's code.

While reviewing the simulation results of a promising new lubricant material, Argonne researcher Sanket Deshmukh stumbled upon a phenomenon that had never been...

Im Focus: NASA satellite camera provides 'EPIC' view of Earth

A NASA camera on the Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) satellite has returned its first view of the entire sunlit side of Earth from one million miles away.

The color images of Earth from NASA's Earth Polychromatic Imaging Camera (EPIC) are generated by combining three separate images to create a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

3rd Euro Bio-inspired - International Conference and Exhibition on Bio-inspired Materials

23.07.2015 | Event News

Clash of Realities – International Conference on the Art, Technology and Theory of Digital Games

10.07.2015 | Event News

World Conference on Regenerative Medicine in Leipzig: Last chance to submit abstracts until 2 July

25.06.2015 | Event News

 
Latest News

A New Litmus Test for Chaos?

29.07.2015 | Physics and Astronomy

New Computer Model Could Explain how Simple Molecules Took First Step Toward Life

29.07.2015 | Life Sciences

New ERC calls published under Horizon 2020

29.07.2015 | Awards Funding

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>