MICROSTRUCTURAL changes within the striatum, identified using a new quantitative MRI (qMRI) analysis technique, are associated with early-stage Parkinson’s disease, new research reports.
Parkinson’s disease is a progressive neurodegenerative disorder affecting the substantia nigra, resulting in dopaminergic neurone degeneration. This lack of dopaminergic innervation along the nigrostriatal pathway leads to changes in structure and function of the striatum.
A novel qMRI analysis method was developed by Elior Drori, doctoral student of Aviv Mezer, who is a Professor at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem (HU), Israel, to assess microstructural brain changes that occur in patients with Parkinson’s disease. This new analysis method allowed the team to identify structural changes in the striatum that are unique to early-stage Parkinson’s disease.
These early-stage striatal changes could provide radiographic markers to assist with not only diagnosis, but also monitoring of disease progression and evaluating response to medical treatment. Mezer commented: “What we have discovered is the tip of the iceberg.”
Moving forward, Drori highlighted that this new qMRI analysis method could potentially assist with stratification of patient subgroups within the Parkinson’s disease population. This could lead to further information about how disease progresses in distinctive subgroups and whether they respond differently to treatments. In turn, this could lead to the development of tailored treatment pathways for patients within a specific subgroup or who display certain radiographic markers, and ultimately enable clinicians to commence the most appropriate treatment as soon as possible for optimal patient outcomes.
For the future, analysis of other brain microstructures to identify further radiographic markers of early-stage disease, as well as identify alternate radiographic markers in different patient subgroups would also be beneficial to assist with development of tailored treatment plans. Mezer’s research team are currently developing a qMRI tool that can be used clinically by physicians. These research findings could help to revolutionise management of patients with Parkinson’s disease by identifying early-stage disease and improving diagnostic accuracy, resulting in faster implementation of the appropriate medical therapy.