The skin as a mirror of the brain:
A new skin test opens up diagnostic pathways for Parkinson's disease

A contribution by Jürgen Zender


We all know the skin as the largest organ in our body - it protects us, regulates temperature and enables touch. But did you know that the skin can now also provide insights into the interior of our nervous system? Researchers from Boston have found that a protein called phosphorylated alpha synuclein, which plays a key role in Parkinson's disease and other neurodegenerative diseases, can also be detected in the skin. This exciting discovery opens new avenues for diagnosing Parkinson's and related diseases.

Parkinson's disease, Lewy body dementia, multiple system atrophy and Bradbury-Eggleston syndrome, summarized under the term synucleinopathies, are characterized by the accumulation of this special protein in the nerve cells. This leads to the death of these cells and the well-known symptoms of the diseases. Interestingly, each of these diseases shows a different distribution of protein deposits in the brain - a mystery that continues to puzzle scientists today.

The “Synuclein-One study”, published in the American medical journal JAMA, has now shown that a simple skin test is able to identify these diseases with impressive accuracy. In the study, the dreaded protein was found in the skin of a high number of patients with Parkinson's and related diseases. The test could therefore prove to be a valuable tool in the diagnosis of these otherwise elusive diseases.

Particularly interesting: the test was also positive in some participants who did not have any clinical signs of synucleinopathy. This suggests that the test may even be able to detect the disease before the first symptoms appear.

The development of this skin test by the team of immunohistochemist Ningshan Wang and neurologist Christopher Gibbons, both of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, is a milestone. They are building on previous research that has already shown that the test can distinguish Parkinson's from similar diseases.

This discovery not only gives hope for early diagnosis, but also for the development of new therapeutic approaches. Because if we understand how and why these proteins accumulate in certain places in the body, we can take more targeted action against them.


Study Result
Synuclein-One study High diagnostic hit rate when detecting phosphorylated alpha-synuclein in the skin
Diseases involved Parkinson's disease, Lewy body dementia, multiple system atrophy, Bradbury-Eggleston syndrome
Diagnosis by skin test Parkinson's disease (92,7%), multiple system atrophy (98,2%), Lewy body dementia (96,0%), PAF (100%)
Potential prediagnosis Positive skin test in 3,3% of patients without clinical symptoms
Developer of the test Ningshan Wang (immunohistochemist), Christopher Gibbons (neurologist)
Sources JAMA 2024, Neurology 2023, Ärzteblatt April 04.04.2024, XNUMX

Jürgen Zender, Munich, April 07.04.2024, XNUMX

Stay tuned.


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ParkinsonPuls: Experiences & Expertise
ParkinsonPuls: Experiences & Expertise
The skin as a mirror of the brain
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