PET scans of heart may aid early detection of Lewy body diseases

submited by
Style Pass
2023-11-21 21:30:05

As the U.S. population grows older, there’s been a rise in age-related neurodegenerative diseases. Two such diseases are Parkinson’s disease and dementia with Lewy bodies. Because both involve abnormal structures, called Lewy bodies, inside nerve cells, they are referred to as Lewy body diseases. Lewy bodies contain a harmful form of a protein called alpha-synuclein. Symptoms of both diseases can include slow movement and cognitive impairment. Once symptoms arise, serious neurodegeneration has already occurred.

Researchers have been searching for ways to detect these Lewy body diseases earlier. Early diagnosis could help scientists study preventive approaches like lifestyle changes, dietary supplements, or medications.

Five years ago, an NIH research team led by Dr. David S. Goldstein reported results from a study that followed 27 people for at least three years. All participants had three or more risk factors for Parkinson’s disease. Risk factors included a family history of the disease, a reduced sense of smell, dream enactment behavior (a sleep disorder in which people act out their dreams), and orthostatic intolerance (problems upon standing, such as fainting or lightheadedness).

The researchers found evidence, using an imaging technique called 18F-dopamine PET scanning, that people who later were diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease already had severe depletion of the chemical messenger norepinephrine in their hearts. Norepinephrine is derived from dopamine, which is lacking in particular brain centers in people with Parkinson’s disease.

Leave a Comment