Saliva Could Hold Clues To Parkinson's Detection
January 11, 2013

Saliva Glands Found To Be Possible Test Site For Parkinson’s Disease

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

The search for a diagnostic test for Parkinson´s disease may soon be over, as new research suggests that testing part of a patient´s saliva gland could detect the degenerative disorder.

As part of a study released Thursday, Charles Adler of the Mayo Clinic in Arizona and colleagues recruited 15 Parkinson´s patients with an average age of 68. The study participants had dealt with the disease for an average of 12 years, had responded to medication, and did not have any known salivary gland disorders. Biopsies were taken from salivary glands under the lower jaw and in the lower lip of each person.

Those tissues were then stained, and Adler analyzed them in search of the abnormal Parkinson´s protein. In four of the earliest tissues biopsied from the lower jaw, it turned out there was not enough tissue for the tests to be complete, as the research team was still perfecting the technique. In the other 11, however, the protein was successfully detected in nine of them, for an 82-percent success rate.

"There is currently no diagnostic test for Parkinson's disease," Adler said in a statement. "We have previously shown in autopsies of Parkinson's patients that the abnormal proteins associated with Parkinson's are consistently found in the submandibular salivary glands, under the lower jaw, and this is the first study demonstrating the value of testing a portion of the saliva gland to diagnose a living person for Parkinson's disease. Making a diagnosis in living patients is a big step forward in our effort to understand and better treat patients."

“While still under analysis, the rate of positive findings in the biopsies of the lower lip glands appears to be much lower than for the lower jaw gland. This study provides the first direct evidence for the use of lower jaw gland biopsies as a diagnostic test for living patients with Parkinson's disease,” he added. “This finding may be of great use when needing tissue proof of Parkinson's disease, especially when considering performing invasive procedures such as deep brain stimulation surgery or gene therapy.”

“This procedure will provide a much more accurate diagnosis of Parkinson's disease than what is now available,” study co-author Dr. Thomas Beach of the Banner Sun Health Research Institute said in a separate statement. “One of the greatest potential impacts of this finding is on clinical trials, as at the present time some patients entered into Parkinson's clinical trials do not necessarily have Parkinson's disease and this is a big impediment to testing new therapies.”

Dr. Michael Hinni and Dr. David Lott, both of the Mayo Clinic in Arizona, also assisted with the research, which was funded by the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research. Their findings will be presented at the American Academy of Neurology's 65th Annual Meeting, which is scheduled to begin on March 16 in San Diego, California.