Breakthrough diagnostic tool for detecting Parkinson’s

Richard Laycock 6 September 2017

Elderly patient looking up at caregiver

A new tool can diagnose Parkinson's disease, even when there aren't any physical symptoms yet.

There is new hope for finding an effective treatment for people diagnosed with Parkinson's disease, as researchers from RMIT University have developed a diagnostic tool for detecting Parkinson's disease, even when there aren't any physical symptoms yet.

One of the major issues with treating Parkinson's is that there are no laboratory tests for the disease. This means that once someone presents with symptoms, it may already be too late, as the nerve cells of the patient's brain may have already sustained irreparable damage.

“Pushing back the point at which treatment can start is critical, because we know that by the time someone starts to experience tremors or rigidity, it may already be too late,” said chief investigator Professor Dinesh Kumar.

How does the tool work?

The customised software records how a person draws a spiral and analyses the data in real time, with a pen, paper and a digital drawing tablet the only equipment needed to run the test.The diagnostic test is simple. Patients draw a spiral on a piece of paper that's resting on a digital tablet. The customised software then records how the person draws the spiral and analyses the data in real time. All that is required to run the test is a pen, a piece of paper and the large digital drawing tablet.

“We’ve long known that Parkinson’s disease affects the writing and sketching abilities of patients, but efforts to translate that insight into a reliable assessment method have failed – until now," Professor Kumar said. "With this tool, we can tell whether someone has Parkinson’s disease and calculate the severity of their condition, with a 93% accuracy rate."

According to Deloitte Access Economics' Living with Parkinson’s Disease: An updated economic analysis 2014, Parkinson's disease costs Australians almost $10 billion each year.

Currently, there are roughly 80,000 Australians living with the disease and it is the second most common neurological disease after dementia.

Picture: Shutterstock

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