Researchers from the Mayo Clinic in Arizona and from the Banner Sun Health Research Institute, also in Arizona, have determined that testing a portion of a person's submandibular gland, which is a gland that makes saliva, may be a way to diagnose early Parkinson's disease. The new study was published online on January 22, 2016 in Movement Disorders, the official journal of the International Parkinson and Movement Disorders Society. The article is titled “Peripheral Synucleinopathy in Early Parkinson's Disease: Submandibular Gland Needle Biopsy Findings.” Currently, there is no accurate diagnostic test for Parkinson's disease. The researchers believe that a procedure termed transcutaneous submandibular gland biopsy may provide the needed accuracy. The test involves inserting a needle into the submandibular gland under the jaw and withdrawing the needle to obtain the core of gland tissue within. The researchers looked for a protein in the cells from patients who have early Parkinson's disease and compared this to subjects without the disease. "This is the first study demonstrating the value of testing a portion of the submandibular gland to diagnose a living person with early Parkinson's disease. Making a better diagnosis in living patients is a big step forward in our effort to understand and better treat patients," says study author Charles Adler, M.D., Ph.D., neurologist, Professor of Neurology, at the Mayo Clinic in Arizona. The study involved 25 patients with Parkinson's disease for less than five years and 10 control subjects without Parkinson's disease. Biopsies were taken from one submandibular gland. The biopsies were done as an office procedure by Michael Hinni, M.D., and David Lott, M.D., at the Mayo Clinic in Arizona.
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