New research could lead to improved methods of detection for early-onset Parkinson’s disease (PD).

Recording the responses of fruit flies (Drosophila melanogaster) to different visual patterns, using methods adapted from the study of vision in humans, scientists investigated the nervous systems of flies with different types of Parkinson’s mutations.

The researchers compared flies carrying mutations associated with early-onset Parkinson’s with ‘normal’ control flies and found increased neuronal activity to stimulation in the former group in ‘young’ flies.

By mapping the visual responses of fruit flies with different Parkinson’s genes, the scientists built a substantial data bank of results. Using this they were able to classify unknown flies as having a Parkinson’s-related mutation with 85 per cent accuracy.

Researchers believe it may be possible to transfer this method back to the clinic where early changes in vision may provide a ‘biomarker’ allowing screening for Parkinson’s before the onset of traditional motor-symptoms. Therefore, profiling human visual responses could prove an accurate and reliable test in diagnosing people with early-onset PD.

This method is also likely to succeed when transferred to human detection of Parkinson’s, as visual profiling in humans has proved accurate in the past in detecting genetic markers. In this study, as more complex light stimulations have been used, a more accurate picture of detecting a wider variety of different genetic markers has been revealed.

Source: University of York

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