Damaged DNA Could Warn of Parkinson’s Long Before Symptoms : ScienceAlert | Science

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Scientists in Barcelona, Spain, think they have identified a possible biomarker that can predict the onset of a disorder that gives rise to diseases like Parkinson’s long before symptoms of cognitive and physical decline appear.

These specific indicators swimming in the blood and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) precede most physical and cognitive symptoms of Parkinson’s and dementia, potentially giving individuals more time to prepare for, or one day even prevent, the conditions.

Unfortunately, most external symptoms of Parkinson’s don’t manifest until the vast majority of dopamine neurons have already been damaged, and telltale protein clumps called Lewy bodies are no help for living patients as they can only be verified upon autopsy.

An early form of diagnosis is desperately needed to halt or slow down the disease before it worsens. Now, researchers think they have found an early biomarker in the blood that is tied to the way cells release energy.

In human cells, including neurons, not all DNA is cooped up within the nucleus. The part of a cell that generates energy, the mitochondria, has its own genetic material, called mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA), which comes only from your mother.

However, mitochondria are busy little power factories that also produce waste products in the form of reactive oxygen species, or free radicals, which can be toxic if they aren’t cleared out and recycled properly.

This positioning of mtDNA so close to where free radicals are readily produced is thought to be one reason why mtDNA is relatively vulnerable to dysfunction over time, compared to DNA tucked safely away in the envelope of the…

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