A team of Mexican scientists have developed a skin test that may provide an enhanced perspective on Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, according to a study scheduled for presentation at The 67th American Academy of Neurology (AAN) Annual Meeting to be held April 18-25, 2015, at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, DC.
In a release, the AAN reports that the Mexican study shows that elevated levels of abnormal proteins found in persons with both of these degenerative diseases can be detected via simple skin biopsies. “Until now, pathological confirmation was not possible without a brain biopsy, so these diseases often go unrecognized until after the disease has progressed,” says study author Ildefonso Rodriguez-Leyva, MD, of the Central Hospital at the University of San Luis Potosi (Universidad Politécnica de San Luis Potosí) in San Luis Potosi, Mexico. “We hypothesized that since skin has the same origin as brain tissue while in the embryo that they might also show the same abnormal proteins. This new test offers a potential biomarker that may allow doctors to identify and diagnose these diseases earlier on.”
Researchers on the study compared skin biopsies from 20 people with Alzheimer’s disease, 16 with Parkinson’s disease and 17 with other types of dementia with those of 12 healthy controls in the same age group. These skin samples were tested to determine whether specific types of altered proteins specific to persons with Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s could be found.
The scientists discovered seven times higher levels of the tau protein in persons with either Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s compared to levels found in healthy patients and ones with dementia caused by other conditions. They also found eight times higher levels of alpha-synuclein protein in people with Parkinson’s compared with the healthy control group.
Now the United States’ sixth leading cause of death, Alzheimer’s disease afflicts some 5.4 million currently diagnosed Americans, while Parkinson’s disease affects one million more with at least 60,000 new cases reported annually.
“More research is needed to confirm these results, but the findings are exciting because we could potentially begin to use skin biopsies from living patients to study and learn more about these diseases,” says Dr. Rodriguez-Leyva in the AAN release, noting that “This also means tissue will be much more readily available for scientists to study.” He suggests that “This procedure could be used to study not only Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, but also other neurodegenerative diseases.”
The study was assisted with funding from the National Council of Science and Technology of Mexico.
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