Protein levels in a person’s spinal fluid may soon be a diagnostic tool for people in the early stages of Parkinson’s disease, according to a study published in JAMA Neurology.

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine studied 102 people—63 of whom had early, untreated Parkinson’s disease. Researchers took spinal fluid samples and examined them for the presence of five proteins: amyloid beta, total tau, phosphorylated tau, alpha synuclein, and the ratio of tau to amyloid beta.

Researchers found that Parkinson’s patients had lower levels of tau proteins than healthy patients, providing a clue to early diagnosis. In Alzheimer’s patients, tau levels are higher than normal.

The cerebrospinal fluid test is currently only being used in research studies, but scientists say they’ll continue to test it for reliability.

“Biomarkers for Parkinson's disease such as these could help us diagnose patients earlier, and we've now shown that the simultaneous measurement of a variety of neurodegenerative disease proteins is valuable," study senior author Leslie M. Shaw, Ph.D., professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at Penn Medicine, said in a statement.

Brian Krans, Healthline News, 26th August 2013