MRI has always been an invaluable tool in the treatment of neurodegenerative disease such as Parkinson’s. Without a biomarker to objectively detect brain changes in Parkinson’s patients, however, monitoring how the disease progresses is rather difficult. Such is no longer the case as a new research suggests that doctors can now quantify the damage of Parkinson’s disease on the patient’s brain by tracking fluid changes in the affected area with MRI. This new study can very well revolutionize how the progression of Parkinson’s is tracked during therapeutic development.
Quantifying Fluid Changes
According to the published research, scientists from the University of Florida used MRI to analyze the fractional volume of “free water” within a voxel, which is expected to increase in patients with Parkinson’s. The researchers then found that the amount of free water doesn’t just change over one year, but keeps progressively increasing. This then led to the conclusion that the free water can be used to track the progressive degeneration of neurons.
Ranking Disease Severity
With a clear cut method of gauging Parkinson’s damage, the scientists were then able to determine the severity of the disease. According to the study, changes were most apparent in the first two years when patients showed a significant increase of free water. Each patient participating in the study were ranked on a scale of 1 to 5. Patients move up the scale as the amount of free water detected through MRI increased over the course of four years.
With these findings, free water is now considered as a valid, progression imaging marker of Parkinson’s disease. Doctors can more accurately predict long-term progression on the Hoehn and Yahr staging system as well. The researchers believe that this will make MRI even more important in treating the condition, especially during clinical trials of disease-modifying therapies. Costs of such as test may now be reduced along with the number of participants required.