BIRMINGHAM, Ala., July 6 (UPI) -- A biomarker found in the urine of patients with Parkinson's disease may aid in the development of treatments for it, researchers report
Researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham found the LRRK2 protein is present in the urine of Parkinson's patients, suggesting they can track both the disease and the efficacy of experimental treatments.
About 2 to 3 percent of patients have a mutation in the Leucine-rich repeat kinase 2, though researchers found LRRK2 in urine samples from patients with and without the mutation, they report.
A previous study showed the protein could be detected in the urine of patients with the mutation after purifying it from exosomes, found in all human biofluids such as urine and saliva.
"Nobody thought we'd be able to measure the activity of this huge protein called LRRK2 in biofluids since it is usually found inside neurons in the brain," Dr. Andrew West, co-director of the Center for Neurodegeneration and Experimental Therapeutics at the University of Alabama-Birmingham, said in a press release.
For the new study, published in the journal Movement Disorders, the researchers measured LRRK2 levels in urine exosomes from 79 Parkinson's disease patients and 79 healthy people.
The researchers found elevated levels of the protein correlated with the severity of cognitive impairment from the disease and difficulty accomplishing daily activities.
"New biochemical markers like the one we've discovered together with new neuroimaging approaches are going to be the key to successfully stopping Parkinson's disease in its tracks," West said. "I think the days of blindly testing new therapies for complex diseases like Parkinson's without having active feedback both for 'on-target' drug effects and for effectiveness in patients are thankfully coming to an end."