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Urine Test Detects Parkinson’s by Identifying Protein from Brain Cells

By LabMedica International staff writers
Posted on 18 May 2023
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Image: The EVtrap technology uses magnetic beads to rapidly isolate and identify large quantities of proteins from extracellular vesicles (Photo courtesy of Purdue University)
Image: The EVtrap technology uses magnetic beads to rapidly isolate and identify large quantities of proteins from extracellular vesicles (Photo courtesy of Purdue University)

It's estimated that 1% of individuals aged over 60 are affected by Parkinson's disease. Unfortunately, diagnosing this kind of neurodegenerative disease is challenging, with cognitive and movement tests sometimes taking over a year to confirm the diagnosis. Early diagnostic molecular tests could speed up interventions and help Parkinson's patients receive treatment faster. Now, researchers have devised a new technique that can reveal signs of Parkinson’s disease in urine samples.

Researchers at Purdue University (West Lafayette, IN, USA) developed a method that potentially enables the detection of alterations in LRRK2 (leucine-rich repeat kinase 2) proteins and their downstream pathways in urine samples of Parkinson's patients. LRRK2 proteins are known to be associated with Parkinson's disease. This innovative approach might also pave the way for noninvasive testing for other neurodegenerative disorders and cancers. Among several methods to study the effect of LRRK2, tracking its biological pathway is feasible through analysis of urine, blood, and cerebrospinal fluid.

Extracellular vesicles (EVs), minute packages utilized by cells for molecular delivery, are present in phosphorylated proteins that are common indicators of cancers. Previous studies suggested that blood samples with phosphoproteins could be potential markers for early cancer detection or disease progression monitoring. EVs offer a way to target disease markers, as they are released by specific types of cells. However, sampling such biomarkers from the brain via spinal tap is a highly intrusive process.

The potential of urine as a source of brain-related chemical markers was previously unknown. Although urine samples contain proteins that might serve as disease markers, many are involved in general cell maintenance and unrelated to diseases. Interestingly, these EVs can readily cross the blood-brain barrier. Upon being discharged from the brain into the bloodstream, they become concentrated or filtered into the urine. In this research, the team successfully isolated these EVs quickly from urine samples, using the EVtrap (Extracellular Vesicles total recovery and purification) method. The EVtrap method offers a simple way to monitor changes in urine, which is routinely collected in various clinical studies.

“It’s going to be a big new area in diagnostic development, especially for neurodegenerative diseases and cancer,” predicted co-author Anton Iliuk. “This kind of analysis opens a new frontier in noninvasive diagnostics development. It’s showing that biomarkers previously thought to be undetectable have become uncovered and do a really good job of differentiating disease from non-disease state.”

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