By Stephanie Stahl

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A local breakthrough for Parkinson’s Disease patients. Medical Reporter Stephanie Stahl is On Your Side with the important development.

50,000 Americans are diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease every year. It’s a degenerative disorder of the central nervous system. It affects patient’s motor skills, and they often develop dementia. Now a new test can predict if and how quickly someone’s memory will be affected.

Dr. Alan Sugarman was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease about five years ago.

“I was having problems with movement. Freezing from time to time,” said Dr. Sugarman.

He’s able to walk and control his movements thanks to medication he takes every three hours. And his mind is still sharp.

“I can think about things that happened. And I don’t sense that I’m impaired mentally at this point,” said Dr. Sugarman.

But that could change. More than 80 percent of Parkinson’s Disease patients develop dementia, which had been unpredictable until now.

Dr. Alice Chen-Plotkin with Penn’s Parkinson’s Disease and Movement Disorders Center has developed a blood test that can potentially predict when cognitive changes will happen.

“It’s very significant for patients,” said Dr. Chen-Plotkin. The Penn study found Parkinson’s Disease patients who had very low levels of a specific protein in their blood were eight times more likely to develop dementia, within about two years.

“It seemed like your levels of the protein would go down before your cognitive performance went down which suggests to me there might be a window where you can intervene in people like that, and certainly it identifies an at risk group,” said Dr. Chen-Plotkin.

Knowing could help patients, like Dr. Sugarman, plan for the future, or get involved with clinical trials to try and stop the mental decline.

For now, Dr. Sugarman enjoys time with his wife and family, including great grandchildren, and isn’t worrying about his future.

“I’m 86 years old. My mother lived to be 100, so that’s my goal,” said Dr. Sugarman.

At this point, Dr. Sugarman hasn’t decided whether he wants to get this new blood test.

The study results are preliminary, but exciting. Doctors at Penn hope to get similar results in their next phase of research.

For more information on the Parkinson’s Disease experimental blood test call Jacqueline Rick at 215-829-7778.


Penn’s Parkinson’s Disease & Movement Disorders Center

Parkinson’s Disease Information

Reported By: Stephanie Stahl, CBS 3

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