PARKINSON’S disease patients may process caffeine differently, causing them to have lower caffeine levels in their blood after drinking tea and coffee than those without the condition, according to researchers in Japan. This finding could provide the basis for the development of a simple diagnostic blood test for the condition.
After drinking similar quantities of caffeinated beverages, blood levels of caffeine and the byproducts created as the body processes the drug were analysed in 108 Parkinson’s patients and 31 people of the same age who did not have the condition. The participants who had Parkinson’s were found to have lower levels of both caffeine and its related byproducts than those without the disease. The researchers found that they could use this method to recognise 98% of the Parkinson’s patients in the study, and they also suggested that this identification could take place during the early stages of the condition.
With this being the first time the use of caffeine as a biomarker has been reported, it is hoped that caffeine levels and its byproducts could lead to a simple diagnostic blood test being created for Parkinson’s. There are currently none available to specialists.
“The lack of a definitive test to detect and measure Parkinson’s means that diagnosis can be incredibly difficult, particularly in the condition’s early stages,” commented Prof David Dexter, Deputy Director of Research, Parkinson’s UK. “Not only does this cause stress for people awaiting a diagnosis, it is one of the key obstacles in the way of developing treatments that slow or stop the progression of this devastating condition. We have known of a link between caffeine and Parkinson’s for some time, but up to now this was only related to the risk of developing the condition. Here, for the first time, researchers suggest an entirely new association with how caffeine is processed in the body.”
Further studies are required to establish the accuracy of such a test. The researchers acknowledged that the lack of participants with other conditions means it is unclear whether Parkinson’s could be distinguished from other neurological ailments, and the causes behind the changes in levels of caffeine in blood need to be better understood.
James Coker, Reporter
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