Parkinson disease is the second most common neurodegenerative disease after Alzheimer disease, and current demographic trends indicate a life-time risk approaching 4% and predict a doubling of prevalence by 2030. Strategies are being developed to apply recent advances in our understanding of the cause of Parkinson disease to the development of biomarkers that will enable the identification of at-risk individuals, enable early diagnosis and reflect the progression of disease. The latter will be particularly important for the testing of disease-modifying therapies. This review summarizes recent advances in Parkinson disease biomarker development.
Recent reports continue to reflect the application of a variety of clinical, imaging or biochemical measurements, alone or in combination, to general Parkinson disease populations. Probably the most promising is the assay of alpha-synuclein in the diagnosis and evolution of Parkinson disease. At present, detection techniques are still being refined, but once accurate and reproducible assays are available, it will be important to define the relationship of these to early diagnosis and progression. Alpha-synuclein concentrations may also be modulated by certain disease-modifying agents in development and so may represent a measure of their efficacy. It has to be accepted that no single measure currently fulfils all the necessary criteria for a biomarker in Parkinson disease, but combinations of measures are more likely to deliver benefit.
The Parkinson disease biomarker field is approaching a stage when certain combinations of clinical, imaging and biochemical measures may identify a proportion of individuals at risk for developing the disease. However, their general applicability may be limited. Attention is now turning to stratification of Parkinson disease into certain at-risk groups defined by genotype. The application of multimodal screening to these populations may be more rewarding in the short term.
Department of Clinical Neurosciences, UCL Institute of Neurology, London, UK
Correspondence to A.H.V. Schapira, DSc, MD, FRCP, FMedSci, Department of Clinical Neurosciences, UCL Institute of Neurology, Rowland Hill St., London NW3 2PF, UK. Tel: +44 207 830 2012; fax: +44 207 472 6829; e-mail: email@example.com