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DOI: 10.


Brain (2004), 127, 1693–1705


Biomarkers and Parkinson’s disease
A. W. Michell, S. J. G. Lewis, T. Foltynie and R. A. Barker
Cambridge Centre for Brain Repair, Cambridge, UK Correspondence to: Dr A. W. Michell, Cambridge Centre for Brain Repair, Forvie Site, Robinson Way, CB2 2PY, UK E-mail:

Biomarkers are characteristics that can be measured as an indicator of a normal biological process, and they have special relevance in Parkinson’s disease. Parkinson’s disease is a chronic neurodegenerative disorder that is difficult to study, given the site of pathology and because the resultant clinical phenotype fluctuates over time. We currently have no definitive diagnostic test, and thus for the clinician there is hope that biomarkers will help diagnose symptomatic and presymptomatic disease or provide surrogate Keywords: biomarkers; Parkinson’s disease; diagnosis Abbreviations: DAT ¼ dopamine transport; MIBG ¼ metaiodobenzylguanidine; MSA ¼ multiple system atrophy; SPECT ¼ single-photon emission computed tomography Received October 16, 2003. Revised March 9, 2004. Accepted March 14, 2004. Advanced Access publication June 23, 2004 end-points to demonstrate clinical efficacy of new treatments, such as neuroprotective therapies, and help stratify this heterogeneous disease. No biomarker is likely to fulfil all these functions, so we need to know how each has been validated in order to understand their uses and limitations, and be aware of potential pitfalls. In this review we discuss the current potential biomarkers for Parkinson’s disease, highlight the problems with their use, and conclude with a discussion of future alternatives.

Parkinson’s disease is a common chronic neurodegenerative disorder in which there is a loss of dopaminergic nigrostriatal neurons in the substantia nigra pars compacta with evidence of intracytoplasmic inclusions known as Lewy bodies. The classical clinical features are of progressive tremor, rigidity and bradykinesia. However, neuronal loss occurs beyond the dopaminergic system, and consequently patients display autonomic, affective and cognitive deficits. Parkinson’s disease can be difficult to diagnose in its early stages, and may be mimicked by other diseases, such as essential tremor, multiple system atrophy (MSA) and progressive supranuclear palsy (see reviews by Galvin et al., 2001; Burn and Lees, 2002; Poewe and Wenning, 2002). Optimization of our treatment of Parkinson’s disease requires accurate information both about the ongoing disease process in the brain and its corresponding clinical syndrome. However, in Parkinson’s disease the key pathology is in the brainstem, hidden from direct study during life, and this, coupled to a fluctuating clinical syndrome over time, makes it difficult to monitor in an unbiased and objective manner. Biomarkers aim to improve our data collection and knowledge about both the clinical and pathological Brain Vol. 127 No. 8

parametersofdisease(seetextbox1foradefinition;Biomarkers Definitions Working Group, 2001), which is complicated in Parkinson’s disease by a rather poor correlation between the underlying pathology and the subsequent clinical phenotype. This review therefore aims to clarify the understanding of biomarkers and their relevance to Parkinson’s disease with a discussion of current candidates and their potential successors.

Why do we need a marker for Parkinson’s disease? To improve diagnosis
To many, the most intuitive goal for a biomarker is to help diagnose disease. For Parkinson’s disease this may be divided into two separate aims: differentiation of susceptible individuals from normals before symptoms develop (sensitivity), and identification of true idiopathic Parkinson’s disease from its imitators once symptomatic (specificity). Even in highly specialized centres the sensitivity of the clinical diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease in symptomatic patients is only about 91% (Hughes et al., 2002), and it is likely to be far less in other settings (Rajput et al., 1991; Hughes et al.,

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since dopaminergic stimulation lasts much longer than this (Nutt et al. Finally. pathogenic processes or pharmacological responses to a therapeutic intervention. 1996a. 1991) and imaging data (Morrish et al. 1994. functions or survives. Pathological progression Pre-diagnostic phase P Pre-symptomatic C D Time Pathological onset Non-specific Specific Diagnosis Treatment Text Box 1 Definitions (from the Biomarkers Definitions Working Group) Biomarker (biological marker) A characteristic that is objectively measured and evaluated as an indicator of normal biological processes. given that $50% reduction in dopaminergic nigral cells is required before clinical expression (Fearnley and Lees. For Parkinson’s disease the need for early presymptomatic diagnosis is driven by the evolution of putative neuroprotective agents (Stocchi and Olanow 2003) that would ideally be administered as soon as the characteristic pathology is detected. Attempts to overcome subjectivity have included the use of rating scales. more powerful clinical trials. can provide a degree of objectivity and potentially enable a reduction in both the duration of a trial and the number of patients required for significance. For different patients the overall rate of disease progression (slope of the graph) will differ. pathophysiological or other scientific evidence. but there are still no symptoms until $50% of the dopaminergic cells in the substantia nigra are lost.. Unfortunately. 1997). One valuable role is in longitudinal clinical treatment trials to provide surrogate end-points which. at present no such biomarkers exist for Parkinson’s disease. Symptom onset 1992). thus providing an opportunity to make an early diagnosis before the onset of characteristic extrapyramidal motor symptoms (Fig. 1991).. Thus.1694 A. Hansson et al. 2001). At some point after this the pathological process begins.. Alternatively. The diagnosis and subsequent treatment of patients can be expedited if patients present earlier with the characteristic phenotype of disease. 1998) and are now accepted end-points for drug licensing. The second hurdle is that some putative neuroprotective agents (for example dopamine agonists. Surrogate markers are a subset of biomarkers. Marek et al. discussed below) also have symptomatic effects unrelated to their diseasemodifying action. which has been shown to have reasonable interobserver variability. there is a need for a biomarker that can reliably detect retarded pathological progression without relying on symptoms. Clinical end-point A characteristic or variable that reflects how a patient feels. Examples include the measurement of blood pressure and cholesterol that have been clearly linked to mortality from myocardial infarction and stroke in large trials (Scandinavian Simvastatin Survival Study Group. Surrogate marker A biomarker that is intended to substitute for a clinical end-point. enabling better epidemiology and natural history studies and allowing cheaper. although it is biased towards assessment of motor deficits (MartinezMartin et al. For Parkinson’s disease. given recent pathological studies (Fearnley and Lees. 1 The role of biomarkers in the diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease. the role of biomarkers changes. Disease-modifying therapy Treatment that affects the underlying pathophysiology of disease rather than purely its symptoms (although there may be symptom improvement as a result of these treatments). A susceptible person develops Parkinson’s disease as a result of their genes and environmental exposure.. In established Parkinson’s disease there are two particular problems for surrogate markers to overcome. This affects the ability of clinical rating scales to detect the neuroprotective action even if patients are assessed after a 12 h washout period. To monitor disease progression and demonstrate treatment efficacy Once a diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease is established. and is likely also to alter over time within a single patient (making it non-linear). Fig. W. with an estimated 4–6 year lag period until the diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease is made on the basis of the characteristic symptoms that eventually develop. 1994).. a process estimated to take $5 years. patients may develop subtle clinical correlates corresponding to a prodromal syndrome lasting 4–6 years (Gonera et al. Michell et al. However. 1).. 2002). it may be possible to develop clinical tests that can positively identify the earlier symptoms that are currently regarded as non-specific (C). it seems increasingly plausible we shall be able to detect the earliest pathological changes even before symptoms develop. potentially allowing the use of neuroprotective agents as early as possible (P). A surrogate end-point is expected to predict clinical benefit (or harm or lack of benefit or harm) based on epidemiological. such as the Unified Parkinson’s Disease Rating Scale. . It seems likely that this presymptomatic phase of Parkinson’s disease lasts $5 years. Firstly it is difficult to be sure about the magnitude of treatment effect by clinical assessment since symptoms fluctuate over time and the majority of patient assessments are subjective. Thus it is clear that any way of detecting true idiopathic Parkinson’s disease and distinguishing it from the numerous causes of a similar clinical syndrome would be beneficial. neuroprotective and neurorestorative therapies are potential disease-modifying therapies. if adequately validated. At first the symptoms are rather non-specific. and if our clinical diagnostic skills are improved (D). therapeutic.

and ideally would not be affected by purely symptomatic therapy (e. yet only a fraction of these ever develop symptoms (Fearnley and Lees. imaging serotonergic function by 11C-WAY100635 PET not only provides information about the degeneration in median raphe signalling but also correlates with rest tremor (Doder et al. for example. 1991. To be specific they must not be abnormal in diseases other than Parkinson’s disease.. There is a natural tendency for clinicians to combine biomarkers when faced with a symptomatic patient they suspect has a disease in whom test results have so far proved negative. 1994). The problem in Parkinson’s disease is that there is poor clinicopathological correlation. a patient’s symptoms fluctuate hour by hour. and vice versa. Note that in both B and C the treatment ideally should not affect the marker directly. (C) Pathological markers and disease modifying treatments. 2 What does the biomarker tell us about Parkinson’s disease? (A) In Parkinson’s disease there is a relatively poor correlation between degeneration of dopaminergic nigral cells and the clinical phenotype (which can be mimicked by other diseases).g. it is essential to determine exactly what they are measuring. the use of 18F-dopa PET to demonstrate neuroprotection by dopamine agonists). or to provide information about disease stage and prognosis. neuronal degeneration. 2003). So. A variety of statistical methods have been proposed to represent the proportion of treatment effect that is captured by a surrogate marker (Cowles 2002). in particular rest tremor). ideally using more than one drug for the same indication in a particular population (Temple. as discussed above. 1994 or Rivner. Naturally. 1989) (Text Box 2). such as Lewy body formation. biomarkers are more often measured in addition to these end-points since this increases the clinicopathological .Biomarkers and Parkinson’s disease 1695 What is the marker telling us? Before we can use biomarkers for Parkinson’s disease. Although tests can be statistically combined. Furthermore. to monitor disease progression. there exists an underlying disease process. For example. Some markers will closely reflect the clinical phenotype and could help determine the effects of symptomatic treatments (e. which can be difficult in practice. Pitfalls with the use of biomarkers as surrogate end-points Biomarkers to be used as surrogate end-points need to be rigorously validated. Ben-Shlomo and Wenning. Of course. but this can only be done by increasing its specificity (an intrinsic property of the test that we can not alter) or by an increase in the prevalence of the disease (perhaps by testing only those at increased risk). our ability to predict pathology (diagnose) from clinical phenotype is poor. which provides a measure of the chance that a patient with a positive result has the disease.g. but their pathology presumably does not. dopamine depletion and so on. $10% of people over 60 have incidental Lewy bodies in their brain. (B) Clinical biomarkers and symptomatic treatments. In addition. The result is that a biomarker targeted to the detection of pathology may well not be able to provide clinical information. On the other hand. in order for an additional test to improve diagnostic accuracy it should be independent of those already in use. These markers will not allow earliest diagnosis before clinical expression of the disease. 1999). but they may assist in diagnosis before classical symptoms develop. In this example the PET scan is not a biomarker for rest tremor. These biomarkers are primarily designed to reflect the underlying pathology of disease rather than clinical phenotype. Although sometimes proposed in place of clinical endpoints. 1994). we wish to improve the positive predictive value of a biomarker. which might be considered to be one of a number of events. and there are many reasons for dissociation between a surrogate marker and the clinical end-point it is trying to represent (Prentice. Biomarkers have a positive predictive value. there are a range of clinical phenotypes caused by this process. The important point is to appreciate what the biomarker (in this case PET imaging) was primarily designed to monitor (pathology here) and what information is acquired by correlation (clinical phenotype. in reality markers that are designed to provide information about pathology can also provide some information about clinical symptoms by correlation. and vice versa. and therefore what information they can and cannot provide (Fig. A PD pathology Clinical phenotype Other diseases What are the problems in using biomarkers in clinical practice? Pitfalls when using biomarkers in diagnosis B Pathology Clinical Other diseases Symptomatic treatment Biomarker C Pathology Clinical Disease modifying treatment Other diseases Biomarker Fig. On the one hand. This type of marker could potentially be used for very early preclinical disease detection. The use of multiple diagnostic biomarkers will tend to increase the likelihood of type 1 errors—diagnosing an unaffected person as having the disease (for a discussion see Schulzer. 2). meaning that you cannot reliably predict clinical phenotype if you know the pathology. and the observed association might be lost in a different population. levodopa may affect a neurophysiological biomarker that monitors tremor). and may help stratify this heterogeneous disease.

2000). More sensitive In some situations. aromatic amino acid decarboxylase activity that converts L-dopa to dopamine. To determine what information is obtained by PET or SPECT imaging is complicated and comes down to validation of a particular ligand in a particular situation.. including following the decline in neurotransmitter function. the biomarker (superoxide production by phagocytes) did not change even though there was clinical benefit (International Chronic Granulomatous Disease Study Group. 1992.. by possibly causing DAT downregulation).. For example.. However. 1996b). in early Parkinson’s disease the uptake of 11C-methylphenidate. 11C-PK11195. 2002. where flecainide suppressed arrhythmias (the biomarker) after myocardial infarction.. and that the striatal 18F-dopa influx constant (Ki) correlates with dopamine levels.. Holthoff et al. 4. such that a preclinical cell loss of less than 50% will be difficult to detect. although data from one of the twin studies suggests that at least some do (Piccini et al. available—an important point if such a marker is to be adopted clinically. 2. Potential biomarkers for Parkinson’s disease The large number of potential markers for Parkinson’s disease will be reviewed by dividing the potential candidates into three main categories. Cicchetti et al. however. False negatives Treatment does not alter the biomarker even though it does alter a useful aspect of the disease pathophysiology. A well-known example occurred in the Cardiac Arrhythmia Suppression Trial (CAST). and are reduced with treatment (Pearson et al.. such as family members (Piccini et al.3..2. when testing the therapeutic effect of interferon-g on recurrent infections in patients with chronic granulomatous disease. (b) Treatment affects a clinically unimportant aspect of pathophysiology that is faithfully represented by the biomarker. Presymptomatic detection. As yet a similar non-specific biomarker has not been found for use in Parkinson’s disease. 1994.. 2000)..3.. but did not reduce mortality (the end-point) (Echt et al. interpretations that can be made. 18Fdopa is taken up by dopaminergic neurons and converted to 18 F-dopamine. W. At present. a biomarker sensing pathological change may be more sensitive than the clinical outcome.. synthetic enzyme activity and nigral cell counts in monkeys lesioned with 1-methyl-4-phenyl-1.1696 A. 1991). 1993). 1991). 1993).2. is reduced relatively more than 18F-dopa (Lee et al. 1. one unresolved issue with these studies is whether subjects with preclinical imaging abnormalities actually go on to develop Parkinson’s disease. Laihinen et al.. In general. patients with hemi-Parkinson’s disease showed reduced uptake on the ipsilateral as well as the expected contralateral side (Schwarz et al. SPECT scans are cheaper and are more widely . and dopaminergic dysfunction has been shown in four people after taking 1-methyl-4-phenyl-1. One of the goals of functional imaging is the presymptomatic detection of patients and there are now several publications to suggest this may be possible. 2003). Gerhard et al. Michell et al. 1994. Imaging as a biomarker Functional imaging PET and single-photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) imaging have numerous potential applications.. 1985). but many unexpected outcomes of the treatment are not represented. False positives (a) Treatment affects the biomarker but not the disease. examining metabolic activity (using 18F-fluorodeoxyglucose) and monitoring regional cerebral blood flow. In this case the marker need not be specific to one disease. 1997) or Text Box 2 Reasons for a dissociation between a surrogate marker and the end-point it is trying to represent 1. such as the microglial response to cell loss (e.. a marker of the dopamine transporter (DAT). which would drastically affect their interpretation. 1999b). Early pathological validation studies have shown that striatal 18F-dopa uptake correlates well with nigral cell count in humans with various diseases (Snow et al. 2003) or accumulation of proteins such as a-synuclein and b-amyloid (Zhuang et al. PET and SPECT images show significant variation between normal subjects.. there has been discussion of the use of C-reactive protein levels as a biomarker for coronary artery disease since concentrations correlate with the risk of this disease independently of cholesterol. Furthermore. twin studies have shown a dopaminergic deficit in asymptomatic twins of patients with Parkinson’s disease (Burn et al. whilst PET scans have greater spatial resolution (especially in 3D mode).6tetrahydropyridine (Pate et al.. and that this relationship may be lost. 3. such as during the long presymptomatic phase that occurs in Parkinson’s disease. It is worth reiterating. Morrish et al. dopaminergic medications may directly affect these scans (for example. 2000). For example. especially in the context of neuroprotection (reviewed recently by Brooks et al. and the dopamine storage capacity in synaptic vesicles. Furthermore. including detailing the topography of the dopaminergic deficiency that seems to affect the dorsal putamen early in the disease (Sawle et al. the positive predictive value of the test might be improved by scanning only those at particularly high risk of developing Parkinson’s disease.. that this validation is specific for a particular set of conditions. For example. 2003). For example. Alternatively. therefore a scan using this ligand will provide a representation of L-dopa uptake through the blood–brain barrier. For example. 2001). new ligands in development may be able to provide pathological information. Insensitive Treatment does alter the biomarker. which may represent compensatory downregulation of DAT to try to maintain dopamine levels in the synapse. There are therefore ongoing efforts to increase the specificity of the test.g.6tetrahydropyridine prior to the onset of symptoms (Calne et al.

in the CALM-PD study.. such as the use of 1 H magnetic resonance spectroscopy to study cerebral metabolites (O’Neill et al. Nevertheless. However. 2003. 1999a). The investigators concluded that ropinirole caused $30% slowing of the progression of Parkinson’s disease over this period (Whone et al. Can functional imaging assess the validity of other biomarkers? Finally. 1994). Alternatively.. 2000).. but the agreement was far less for MSA (Burn et al.. In the REAL PET study the F-dopa influx constant (Ki) in the putamen was measured in patients randomized to receive either levodopa or ropinirole over 2 years. it may be that different scanning approaches are adopted. for example. 2003). 2003). providing evidence that clinical benefit relates to the dopaminergic activity within the graft. Furthermore. Wolters and colleagues performed a study comparing sense of smell with 123I-b-CIT SPECT in first-degree relatives of patients with Parkinson’s disease (Wolters et al.. 123I-b-CIT SPECT and (þ)-11C-dihydrotetrabenazine PET [which reflects storage of dopamine in synaptic vesicles via VMAT2 (the vesicular monoamine transporter)] have recently been reviewed elsewhere (Brooks et al.. suggesting that it is potentially a powerful way of following disease progression in a patient. with some correlation to clinical phenotype in that the percentage reduction in striatal 123I-bCIT uptake correlated with the change from baseline in the UPDRS at 46 months (r ¼ À0. As well as use in neuroprotective studies. this clinical diagnosis becomes the gold standard against which the scan result is compared even though we know that our clinical diagnosis is not totally accurate [although a recent study has suggested a positive predictive value of up to 98. A different potential diagnostic use for functional imaging is to help determine which symptomatic patients really have Parkinson’s disease. whereas in MSA and progressive supranuclear palsy it seems to be diffusely reduced (discussed by Brucke et al... 2003). At baseline 11% of patients with the clinical diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease were felt to have normal images from the caudate and putamen.. 1996).. 2003). Antonini et al. to assess striatal D2 dopamine receptors on medium spiny GABAergic neurons using (123I)-S(–)IBZM (iodobenzamide) since in Parkinson’s disease there is no change in D2 binding.. Thus it may prove useful. In the remainder 18 1697 there was a significant difference in the deterioration of putamen 18F-dopa uptake with ropinirole compared with levodopa (–13% versus À20%.Biomarkers and Parkinson’s disease those with a parkin mutation (Hilker et al. Assessment of dopaminergic function of the caudate and putamen using 18F-dopa PET showed that in 64% of patients the PET diagnosis agreed with clinical diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease. Monitoring disease progression. where the challenge is to distinguish the different forms of parkinsonism when the diagnosis is in doubt.6% for the clinical diagnosis of idiopathic Parkinson’s disease in a specialist movement disorder centre using pathological confirmation (Hughes et al. the intersubject variation between normal people and those with Parkinson’s disease currently limits the accuracy of these tools. increasing to 70% for progressive supranuclear palsy. co-aligning three dimensional image sets and looking at putamen 18F-dopa influx constants (Ki) the variability can be as low as 2% (Brooks.They hypothesized that the 50 best and worst smellers of a group of 500 would have significantly different striatal binding of 123 I-b-CIT. Rather than studying dopaminergic function. The intrasubject test–retest reproducibility of 18F-dopa PET is relatively good and by using the latest PET machine. and the results suggest that some patients with clinically diagnosed striatonigral degeneration can be differentiated from those with Parkinson’s disease and normal controls because of their reduced caudate and putamen signal (Eidelberg et al. P ¼ 0. 2002). 1992. For example.001).4. P ¼ 0. since they are known to have an increased risk of developing the disease (Payami et al. 2002). but at present it is not clear who to screen outside these rare familial forms. 2003. The issues encountered in monitoring disease progression with 18F-dopa PET. with improved scan resolution and the use of newer ligands there are likely to be significant advances in the next few years to enable further clinical use of these promising tools. 2b-carboxymethoxy3b(4-iodophenyl)tropane (123I-b-CIT) SPECT was used to study the integrity of the dopaminergic system (reuptake of dopamine into axons via the DAT) in patients treated with pramipexole versus levodopa. However. 1994. However. In contrast.. providing an indirect estimate of synaptic dopamine levels from changes in tracer D2 receptor binding potentials (Brooks et al. Morrish. 2002). As with functional imaging of the dopaminergic system.. Overall the results suggested an $40% reduction in the rate of loss of striatal 123I-b-CIT uptake with pramipexole compared with levodopa (Parkinson Study Group. 2002)]. 11C-raclopride PET is emerging as a potential alternative. it is possible that levodopa alters the uptake of 18F-dopa and therefore changes the 18F-dopa influx constant. some groups have chosen quantitative 18-fluorodeoxyglucose PET (18FDG PET) to monitor metabolic activity. In fact it was estimated that by using 18F-dopa PET it is possible to detect a 30% protective effect with 80% power in a 2 year study with 60 patients treated with levodopa versus 60 with a neuroprotective agent (Brooks. 1993).. In most comparative imaging studies the patients are readily distinguishable clinically. as discussed above. Yekhlef et al. Marder et al. 2003). Differentiating symptomatic Parkinson’s disease from atypical Parkinsonian disorders. 2000. great caution needs to be exercised when functional imaging is used as a surrogate marker with which to assess the efficacy of other potential biomarkers. 2000). which would clearly alter the interpretation of the REAL PET results (Fahn.02). even if subjects demonstrating a poor result on a potential new test also have poor SPECT scans it must be shown that this same group does in fact go on to . one of the problems in interpreting these studies is that they are not particularly representative of real life. these imaging tools have been used to show that cell transplantation can restore dopaminergic function in line with clinical improvement (Piccini et al. 1997). 2002) or accurate structural MRI (Savoiardo..

. 1961) are not specifically designed to capture the relevant early depressive symptoms. Wakabayashi and Takahashi. such as feelings of self-reproach (Huber et al. 2001a)..1698 A. Clinical testing procedures Firstly let us consider diagnosis. 1990) or anxiety-related depression (Hoogendijk . whereas in non-extrapyramidal neurological disorders it is often normal. Michell et al. 2001). it is possible to use ultrasound to determine the echogenicity of the substantia nigra (Becker and Berg. caution must be exercised in interpreting these promising results since this biomarker is affected in other diseases that might imitate Parkinson’s disease. 2002). and psychiatric patients with high echogenicity developed worse extrapyramidal signs and symptoms on neuroleptics compared with those with lower echogenicity (Berg et al. A recent review of the use of such imaging in a total of 246 Parkinson’s disease patients and 45 cases of MSA suggested that the cardiac to mediastinal uptake ratio of MIBG could correctly identify idiopathic Parkinson’s disease with 89. However.. which is partly because the early symptoms of Parkinson’s disease might be similar to prodromal depressive symptoms and because rating scales such as the Beck Depression Inventory (Beck et al. in Huntington’s disease there is evidence that poor performance on tests of attentional set shifting and semantic verbal fluency can be found in ‘asymptomatic’ gene-positive individuals (Lawrence et al. In Parkinson’s disease this tends to be increased bilaterally..... a biomarker that accurately measures clinical phenotype will be of limited use for assessing pathological progression since it would be affected by purely symptomatic effects of disease modifying medication (see above in ‘Monitoring disease progression’ – the dopamine agonist trials). 2001). such as dementia with Lewy bodies (Yoshita et al. Transcranial ultrasound Using a temporal bone acoustic window. although it is unknown how many of these go on to develop frank Parkinsonism (Berg et al. clinical markers are essential for monitoring symptom fluctuation in response to treatment. elderly people without a diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease but with substantia nigrahyperechogenicityshowedmorefrequentandmoresevere slowing and hypokinesia than age-matched subjects with normal echogenicity. and potentially therefore an increase in iron-derived free radicals causing cell damage (Berg et al.. In addition. there is post-mortem evidence of Lewy body formation diffusely within the autonomic nervous system. these testing procedures might be able to sensitively detect subtle early symptoms and signs in at-risk groups that would otherwise be missed on routine clinical assessment. Any form of clinical testing from neuropsychology to clinical neurophysiology relies on the phenotypic expression of the disease process. Olanow et al. In the light of these findings some researchers have chosen to study autonomic function as a potential biomarker in Parkinson’s disease. 1997). However.7% sensitivity and 94. but the results tend to be rather variable. 2003). the substantia nigra hyperechogenicity seen in healthy asymptomatic subjects correlated with a reduction in 18F-dopa uptake in the putamen using PET (Berg et al. sweating or constipation. such as bladder irritability. develop Parkinson’s disease in order to show they could be good biomarkers. we do not know exactly what the reduced MIBG uptake in the heart of Affective and psychological tests Prior to developing Parkinson’s disease many patients suffer a range of rather non-specific symptoms. 1984. patients with Parkinson’s disease means since it does not reflect denervation. prior to developing characteristic extrapyramidal signs. 2. Singaram et al. given that Parkinson’s disease is extremely heterogeneous (Foltynie et al. Walter et al. There is some evidence to suggest that this technique might detect presymptomatic disease. As yet the pathophysiological significance of this increase is not clear... but it seems to relate to iron and ferritin levels. although in $30% of cases this examination could not distinguish these two groups (Berg et al.. 1999. 1998). anxiety and musculoskeletal pain. and could therefore not detect the preclinical period of neuronal loss (this would require a marker reflecting pathology). 1999). these markers are likely to help stratify the diseased population by patterns of presentation and progression.. 2001c). 2001). They may therefore effectively shorten the prediagnostic period and might be useful in precipitating early treatment. 1995. This might prove helpful in targeting novel treatments. Furthermore. 1997).. 2002a). including enteric nerves and cardiac plexus (Qualman et al. MIBG is an analogue of noradrenaline that is transported into sympathetic neurons and can act as a tracer of catecholaminergic neurons if labelled with radiolabelled iodine and detected by scintigraphy. 2001. Furthermore. at the time of reduced striatal D1 and D2 receptor binding on 11C-raclopride PET (Andrews et al. Cardiac metaiodobenzylguanidine (MIBG) scintigraphy Many patients with Parkinson’s disease complain of autonomic dysfunction. For example. such as cell transplantation.. such as depression. 2002). Furthermore.. Secondly. 2001b. and it seems to be reduced even without overt autonomic failure. An alternative might be to develop a test that concentrates on certain features of the depression that are more specific to Parkinson’s disease patients..6% specificity from the group with MSA (Braune. It is possible to use depression rating scales and other tools to monitor some of these symptoms (Montgomery et al. W.. that might herald subsequent disease development (Gonera et al. which is the ultimate end-point for patients and clinicians. 2002).. 2000a. b). For example. However. since early data suggest that some subgroups of the Parkinson’s disease population respond better than others (Freed et al.

and rigidity by surface EMG or long-latency stretch reflexes (Valls-Sole and Valldeoriola. we know that pathological changes occur in Parkinson’s disease outside the basal ganglia..Biomarkers and Parkinson’s disease et al. So. for example. Visuomotor testing has also revealed impairments on the asymptomatic side of hemiparkinsonian patients in the control of movement direction during tracing tests. 1999). Clinical neurophysiology There are two rather different clinical neurophysiological approaches to Parkinson’s disease. such as the velocity of movement or reaction time. Beyond a role in diagnosis it seems increasingly likely that cognitive behaviour may provide a powerful way of defining disease heterogeneity and increasing our understanding of the neural correlates of cognitive dysfunction within the disease (Lewis et al. This may remain unrecognized by relatives because external cues in the environment and a familiarity with daily tasks allow the sufferer to function normally. The sympathetic skin response and electrocardiogram R–R interval variation have been used to help confirm and monitor clinical dysautonomia (Zakrzewska-Pniewska and Jamrozik.. 2000. but unfortunately it is unable to reliably distinguish MSA from Parkinson’s disease. Performance of complex tasks such as writing. self-reliance.. Therefore at the present time these tests would seem to be more useful in monitoring clinical progression and response to symptomatic treatment rather than diagnosis. many tests looking at simple movements are unrewarding in their conclusions if taken in isolation (Kraus et al. which may help more in stratifying disease than in diagnosis or monitoring disease progression. 1985. one study using the Tower of London test of problem-solving and executive function did not reliably detect early Parkinson’s disease (Owen et al. that complex neuropsychological tests requiring an intact working memory and executive function may pick up these deficits early in susceptible people (Cooper et al. who showed olfactory dysfunction in first-degree relatives of patients with Parkinson’s disease together with reduced . This descriptive approach allows the objective monitoring of the effects of treatment and any change in clinical signs over time. bradykinesia by reaction times or ballistic movements. Montgomery et al. whereas some researchers have focused on simple parameters. and could be measured using somatosensory evoked potentials (Rossini et al. 1999). 2003). it seems likely that sensory motor integration is affected in Parkinson’s disease. 1992). However. and at Olfaction The loss of smell detection. with refinement there may be a testing algorithm that might help in the early diagnosis of disease. before the development of extrapyramidal signs. several groups have investigated the use of anal sphincter EMG. tremor can be monitored by surface EMG or accelerometer. although the issue of identifying the latter group remains. 2002). Alternatively.. It is possible. 2001). 2002). 2000.. when testing patients with unilateral symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. given the range of neurogenic changes in Parkinson’s disease. However. Finally. or transcranial magnetic stimulation to reveal abnormal higher cortical processing (Lewis and Byblow. Foltynie et al. 1699 present there are no trial data to support this.. Nevertheless.. Support for the presymptomatic deterioration of olfaction has been provided by Berendese and colleagues. In Parkinson’s disease this may in part reflect neurodegeneration within the olfactory bulb since there is evidence that this might precede both nigral degeneration and symptoms (Braak et al. especially in advanced disease (Giladi et al. b. 1992b). which has been refined in the light of post-mortem data to be as diagnostically accurate as possible (Rajput et al. which should help us understand and subclassify this heterogeneous disease. Brown et al. There is evidence that cognitive dysfunction may affect executive processes and precede the motor manifestations of Parkinson’s disease both in humans and a slowly progressing animal model of Parkinson’s disease (Schneider and PopeColeman. 2000a.. which. To be really useful it would need to differentiate atypical cases from true Parkinson’s disease when there is clinical uncertainty. The first of these has been to describe and subdivide the exact motor phenotypes resulting from disease of the basal ganglia as there are neurophysiological counterparts of the key clinical features of the disease. 1998). For example. however. 1991)... it may be that a personality questionnaire looking at such traits may go some way to predicting mood disorder and help with early diagnosis in susceptible individuals. 1989). Overall. although this was based on small numbers of patients and anecdotal evidence (for reviews see Todes and Lees. which can help distinguish subjects with MSA from normals. and of movement velocity during target tracking (Hocherman and Giladi et al. if they can be detected and accurately monitored. 1995.. Using these procedures there is some evidence of a motor abnormality before symptoms are declared by the patient.. 2002). motor abnormalities have frequently been detected on the ‘normal’ side (Horstink and Morrish. Vodusek. Furthermore. 1991. 2004). there is some evidence for a reduced amplitude and slope of the cerebral electrical activity that precedes and accompanies voluntary internally paced movements (the Bereitschaftspotential) in Parkinson’s disease compared with controls (Filipovic et al. 2000). it provides valuable insight into the pathological cause of these clinical complaints. Tests of motor performance Any test of motor performance in Parkinson’s disease can really be viewed as an extension of the clinical examination.. Thus. 1998). Menza. 2001). identification or discrimination often goes unnoticed early in neurodegenerative disease. might themselves provide a useful marker. visually guided movement or sequential tasks has been used to examine actions that involve high-level motor control. Early studies suggested that Parkinson’s disease sufferers showed emotional repression. Furthermore.. 2000. introversion and punctuality. b) and contingent on mood and motivation. Libelius and Johansson.. Hughes et al. 2003a.

however. there seem to be differences in contrast sensitivity. 2003) and considerable effort has been spent in the search for a marker of this process. 2001). There is some evidence of a reduction in dopaminergic transporter immunoreactivity in lymphocytes of Parkinson’s disease patients (Caronti et al. 1994). 1999) their potential as biomarkers is not fully characterized. However. Perhaps more usefully. 1999). On the other hand.. but the diseased and normal values overlap (Price et al. be influenced by symptomatic drug therapies. The levels tend to be abnormal in Parkinson’s disease compared with control groups. 2002.. for example. it seems that visual landmarks improveantisaccadeperformance(asaccademadeintheopposite direction to a stimulus) in Parkinson’s disease more than controls. unpublished results). 1999). 1995) but not all (Vesela et al. abnormalities of eye movement might turn out to be more closely related to motor phenotype than pathology since. In addition there is evidence that platelet monoamine oxidase B activity is increased and plasma b-phenylethylamine is reduced in patients with Parkinson’s disease. Unfortunately. it may be that tests of retinal function will correlate more closely with pathological changes in the basal ganglia than clinical phenotype.M. although a-synuclein is present in platelets (Hashimoto et al. 2003) as well phosphorylation in human synucleinopathies (Fujiwara et al.A. in a fashion analogous to target-directed pointing (Briand et al. suggesting that olfaction might be a useful presymptomatic biomarker. A similar situation exists if instead the levels of protective enzyme systems are compared.1700 A.. 1990. and that this may be reversed by selegiline treatment (Bonuccelli et al. 2001). or copper and zinc superoxide dismutase (Ilic et al... 1987). Michell et al.. Vision There are many ways in which vision might be affected in Parkinson’s disease (Bodis-Wollner and Onofrj et al... there may be a degree of tissue specificity.. 2001). any correlation with clinical phenotype should only arise secondarily to this .. Finally. Michell. L. whereas all but one of the patients with MSA or progressive supranuclear palsy had only mild to moderate hyposmia (Muller et al. providing valuable insight into the nature of the oxidative stress.. Several studies have recorded eye movements in Parkinson’s disease compared with controls. to increased oxidative stress (Jenner. but none is sufficiently robust to be useful as a diagnostic biomarker of the disease process in clinical practice. 2002). 2003). Spillantini... Given that the pathological process in Parkinson’s disease affects retinal cells. it may be that alteration in the sense of smell can also help distinguish true cases of Parkinson’s disease from their imitators.. 1992). it has been suggested that colour vision and contrast sensitivity might be abnormal as a result of a change in intraretinal dopaminergic transmission in amacrine and interplexiform cells.. 8-hydroxy-20 -deoxyguanosine from oxidized DNA and 8-hydroxyguanosine from RNA oxidation (Kikuchi et al. 2002). 1993. Blood tests Parkinson’s disease is thought to be due. M. which would limit the ability of peripheral assays to detect central changes. Two of the relatives with hyposmia and reduced striatal dopamine transporter binding subsequently developed Parkinson’s disease. In a recent study it was found that patients with idiopathic Parkinson’s disease were either anosmic or hyposmic.. For example.. Platelets have been used for a long time to model serotonergic and dopaminergic neuron behaviour (Da Prada et al. for example.G. and colour vision has indeed been found to be abnormal in some Parkinson’s disease patients (Buttner et al. rather than other sources such as skeletal muscle (Blin et al. Barker. and since they are easily collected they make appealing candidates as peripheral biomarkers of oxidative stress. 1993). 2003). Zhou et al.. 2001)... Furthermore. such as progressive supranuclear palsy (Doty et al. For example. 3.. Hawkes.. such as glutathione reductase. W. as assessed by 123I-bCIT in four out of 25 SPECT scans of these hyposmic relatives (Berendse et al. and patients with corticobasal degeneration or psychogenic movement disorders were found to be normosmic. 2000). 2001). the coenzyme Q10 redox ratio (Gotz et al... such as malondialdehyde. some researchers have opted to look instead at a-synuclein in platelets of controls versus patients with Parkinson’s disease since there is evidence for a dose effect of this protein (Singleton et al.. 2002) (A. Furthermore. visual evoked responses and electroretinograms in Parkinson’s disease patients compared with controls.. relationship and the marker should not. 1990) and that platelets exhibit a similar deficiency (Parker et al. superoxide radicals (Ilic et al. Attempts to detect a difference in plasma homovanillic acid in Parkinson’s disease patients versus controls have so far been unrewarding (Jenner et al. it has been noted that patients with Parkinson’s disease show a selective reduction in mitochondrial complex I in their substantia nigra (Schapira et al. and at least one study has reported a lack of difference in complex I levels in the platelets of patients with Parkinson’s disease versus controls (Mann et al. and although there does seem to be some difference between Parkinson’s disease patients and controls during voluntary saccade paradigms (Briand et al. it has been suggested that olfactory dysfunction might help distinguish patients with idiopathic Parkinson’s disease from healthy subjects (Tissingh et al. Luheshi. 1992). 1999). R. An alternative haematogenous biomarker for Parkinson’s disease may arise from studies looking at dopamine metabolism in the periphery. Abe et al.. The concentrations of several other potential markers of oxidative stress have been measured in blood.. Once symptoms have developed. 1989). 1997) early studies do not suggest there is any difference in the amount in controls versus Parkinson’s disease (Li et al. at least in part. 1988). striatal dopamine transporter binding. Biochemical and genetic tests The ideal biochemical biomarker would need to be easily measured and to reflect accurately the ongoing degenerative process in the basal ganglia.W.

genetics is uniquely useful to help diagnosis and to help subdivide this heterogeneous disease. Genetic testing For the majority of patients there is no clear link between genotype and the development of Parkinson’s disease. 2002). differing gene penetrance and so on. An alternative systems biology approach is to look further down the line and assess the pattern of peptide fragments (proteomics) or metabolites (metabonomics) from a peripheral tissue sample. especially in relation to potential markers of oxidative stress. Dekker et al. This may be in part because of treatment or compensatory mechanisms that maintain the levels of dopamine and its metabolites by increased production from the surviving cells (LeWitt et al. 5-hydroxy-indoleacetic acid and acetylcholinesterase (Hartikainen et al. the levels of the reactive oxygen species malondialdehyde have been recorded in the CSF and found to be significantly increased in Parkinson’s disease compared with controls (Ilic et al.. There is already evidence that this is possible to some extent using PET or SPECT imaging of the basal ganglia. we can test for a large variety of compounds in different tissues and subsequently compare the patterns achieved (which represent a metabolic profile) in the diseased and control state to provide an insight into the metabolic defect in disease. None the less. ventricular CSF levels of orexin were lower in Parkinson’s disease patients than controls. 2003). and once validated the single-nucleotide polymorphism or haplotype map might serve as a predictive biomarker of clinical response.. with Parkinson’s disease (Warner and Schapira. the levels of 8-hydroxy-20 deoxyguanosine and 8-hydroxyguanosine were found on average to be elevated in Parkinson’s disease (Kikuchi et al. and so as diagnostic tests they would provide at best poor sensitivity and specificity. 1998)... 2002).. 2003). In sporadic Parkinson’s disease the use of genetic markers is not so clear-cut (Foltynie et al.. single-nucleotide polymorphisms and haplotype maps could be used to investigate subtle genetic differences in drug receptors in the light of differing clinical responses to a new drug. Jenner. but one hope is that if an association is found it might help stratify a diseased population. but an appealing alternative would be to gain insight into the pathological changes from a continuously variable biochemical marker that can be assayed economically and easily. drug toxicology and the reason that some patients respond better to treatment than others. 1995). 2000.. Tanner et al. 1992. Zigmond et al. and only slightly differing levels of homovanillic acid. some of which have also been investigated in blood. On the other hand.. especially in those with advanced disease (Drouot et al. Numerous other potential CSF biochemical markers have been studied. as well as autosomal recessive transmission (Kitada et al. direct DNA sequencing and allelic association studies in an attempt to associate specific genes. many researchers have investigated its chemical composition in Parkinson’s disease. it would not be powerful enough to make predictions for a single patient. there seem to be similar amounts of a-synuclein (Borghi et al. .. 2003). 1998).. Future directions Advances in our understanding of genetics may well eventually provide useful biomarkers for Parkinson’s disease.. techniques such as familial linkage analysis. Recently. since patients with the autosomal dominant or recessive types of disease tend to have rather different clinical courses. given the advent of putative neuroprotective agents. For example.. For these cases alone. 2003). Similarly. 1997). although genetic susceptibility is suggested by several lines of evidence. 1992.... Abe et al. 1993.. 2000). given the number of unknown interacting genetic and environmental factors. Given the complex interaction between genes and their environment.. 2000) and insulin (Jimenez-Jimenez et al. especially the young (Burn et al.. 2002. Of course there are extremely rare and well publicized autosomal dominant cases of Parkinson’s disease (Polymeropoulos et al. These have revealed that in Parkinson’s disease compared with control subjects there are reduced levels of CSF b-phenylethylamine that correlated negatively with Hoehn and Yahr clinical stage (Zhou et al. 2002b) and the increased incidence of Parkinson’s disease in the identical twin of some patients. like the blood tests described earlier. There have been a number of candidate gene studies using Conclusions There is clearly a need for biomarkers that accurately reflect pathological change. such as the familial clustering of Parkinson’s disease (Sveinbjornsdottir et al. RNA profiling can provide a map of the genes that are actively being transcribed that. such a technique has been shown to be powerful enough to help diagnose coronary heart disease (Brindle et al. For example.. once correlated to drug efficacy. Foltynie et al. these techniques are unlikely to help with diagnosis or individual risk prediction in Parkinson’s disease.. 1997. Furthermore. such as tyrosine hydroxylase and many others. There has been little success for sporadic disease. In patients it may eventually be possible to use this technique on leucocytes in a blood sample to gain insight into why a patient is responding well or adversely to a new drug. Kruger et al. Using techniques such as nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy. This could help determine the molecular basis for clinical variation. Loeffler et al. as well as improve our understanding of the metabolic defect in disease. 1992. Of course the above studies throw some light on disease pathogenesis and were not carried out purely to detect potential biomarkers. 2002b. could help explain the biochemical basis of that efficacy. 1999). however. For Parkinson’s disease this technique might help presymptomatic diagnosis.Biomarkers and Parkinson’s disease 1701 CSF CSF is a less appealing source of biomarkers in comparison with blood because of the difficulty of obtaining samples. 1999). Alternatively..

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