Lipids Could Be Biomarkers for Parkinson’s Disease

Parkinson's Disease (PD) affects 10 million individuals globally and can severely lessen the quality of life of patients and family members. Recent research, presented in a webinar on March 9, looked at how disease-specific lipid isomers could help diagnose PD.

Parkinson's is a condition where the brain gradually becomes damaged throughout a patient's life. Some critical symptoms include slow movement, tremors, and stiff muscles. It can also cause complications like depression, anxiety, insomnia, and memory troubles.

The disease stems from diminished nerve cells in the substantia nigra of the brain, causing dopamine reduction. As dopamine plays a critical role in our bodies, such as executive functioning, motor control, motivation, arousal, reinforcement, and reward, reducing the chemical leads to adverse outcomes, such as PD.

Diagnosis is not made by using a particular procedure. A neurologist diagnoses PD according to your medical history, an analysis of your symptoms, and both a neurological and physical test. To eliminate other conditions, a healthcare provider may request lab studies, such as blood tests, MRIs, and imaging tests.


Getting a diagnosis doesn't happen overnight. Consistent visits with neurologists may be advised by healthcare professionals to monitor your state over time to determine whether you have the disease or not.

Although younger individuals can be diagnosed with PD, most people begin showing symptoms after the age of 50. Men are also more vulnerable to the disease compared to women. Per the National Council on Aging, some early symptoms of PD can include tremors, loss of smell, constipation, trouble sleeping and moving, and small handwriting.

It has been established that adjustments in the metrics of isomeric lipids — which differ in the location of the double bond or the configuration of the fatty acid chains — can serve as helpful biomarkers for other diseases, such as type 2 diabetes and cancer. The fact that lipids are altered in the plasma of PD patients suggests that lipids may be helpful biomarkers for the illness.

What research is finding

Blaine Roberts, Ph.D., an Associate Professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Department of Neurology at Emory University, focuses on understanding Alzheimer's, Parkinson’s Disease, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

In Roberts’ webinar titled "Discover Lipid Biomarkers for Parkinson’s Disease Using MS," held on March 9, he dove into how his research focuses on recognizing disease-specific lipid isomers that can be used to discern early diagnosis of Parkinson's Disease, with the help of ion mobility mass spectrometry.

Early detection of PD can be very helpful, as it can lead to early treatment, such as levodopa and carbidopa drugs, which are more effective when provided early. Even exercising can help with PD in its early stages to calm symptoms gradually.

The overall concept of what we're trying to do is measure, in this case, lipids and blood or in the brain, use unbiased discovery, and hopefully with a lot of steps in between develop those into something that's clinically useful and diagnostic space around Parkinson's.

Blaine Roberts, Ph.D.

"Lipids could be a good source of biomarkers for PD," continues Roberts.


Research continues as Roberts explores and finds ways lipids can be helpful for future diagnosis.

He concludes: "In summary, we confirmed the number of lipid changes. In some of the lipid changes that people observed in the literature prior, we found this unusual discrepancy between the levels or the changes in red blood cell lipids compared to the changes in the plasma. And that's an area that we really want to explore more."


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