Is saliva gland test a new way for diagnosing Parkinson’s disease?

According to a new research by the Mayo Clinic, the saliva gland of an individual can identify and evaluate the presence of Parkinson’s disease. For healthcare providers, the uniqueness of this second most common neurodegenerative disorder has always posed diagnostic challenges. So far, observation of the characteristic symptoms, which include trembling of the limbs at rest, stiffness, slowness, and impaired balance, are the only indicators of the debilitating condition. Interestingly, most cases are generally detected by performing an autopsy on the brain after the death of the ailing patient.

Parkinson's disease image

The chief medical researcher of the study, Charles Adler, a renowned neurologist from Scottsdale, Arizona, has demonstrated the presence of abnormal proteins associated with the disorder in the submandibular saliva glands, found under the lower jaw. Testing a portion of saliva in living patients to identify Parkinson’s disease is definitely a significant milestone for the doctors.

The study consisted of 15 people with an average age of 68, who had been suffering from this movement disorder for 12 years. Some of the commonly used Parkinson’s medications given to these candidates, also proved quite efficacious. However, all the participants had no history of salivary gland problems.

The clinicians conducted a series of biopsies on the minor saliva glands in the lower lip and submandibular gland, located deep under the mandible or jawbone. The microscopic samples were then thoroughly examined for evidence of the irregular Parkinson’s protein. 9 out of 11 patients had an elevated amount of the salivary gland tissue in their biopsies, which were properly assessed by Charles Adler and team. In all of these samples, a definite quantity of the irregular Parkinson’s protein was found. The overall outcome for biopsy of the lower jaw glands was however, more positive than the lower lip gland.

In all likelihood, the use of submandibular gland biopsies as a diagnostic tool for living patients with Parkinson’s disease is an important criteria that needs to be fulfilled before performing the usual invasive techniques like deep brain stimulation surgery and gene therapy.

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