Although there is no cure for terrible diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, health professionals agree that the earlier they’re found in patients, the higher the likelihood of slowing down some of their degenerative effects.
That’s exactly what makes this potential new test so important.
Dr. Ildefonso Rodriguez-Leyva and a team of scientists at the Central Hospital in University of San Luis Potosi believe they may have discovered a way to test for both Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s simply by looking for abnormal levels of protein in your skin.
Their study, which will be presented at the American Academy of Neurology’s annual meeting in April, found that patients who already have the diseases tested higher for specific proteins in skin biopsies. Alzheimer’s patients had seven times as much “tau,” an altered protein, while Parkinson’s patients had seven-to-eight times more alpha-synuclein, another harmful, altered protein.
While everyone develops these two proteins naturally in life, those in the bodies of people who go on to develop either of the diseases tend to twist and bend more, or clump together in masses that are damaging to the brain.
So what does this potential discovery do to actually help cure these diseases? Nothing, yet. But in addition to being able to put together a care plan sooner, knowing the link is there helps drug developers to target those proteins when searching for treatments and possible cures. Of course more research is needed, since the original sample size consisted of only a few dozen patients.
In the meantime, The Alzheimer’s Association suggests combining good nutrition with physical activities and positive mental and social behaviours to improve your brain health as you age. That means sticking mostly to a diet that’s low in fats and high in fruits and vegetables, avoiding excessive alcohol, and working out on the regular. It also means learning new skills or considering a continued education, and of course checking in with your friends and family regularly.