Penn Medicine Logo Blood test may enable physicians to identify a number of ailments including cancer and rheumatoid arthritis. Scientists from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine’s Udall Center for Parkinson’s Research have now developed a blood-based biomarker test to anticipate cognitive decline in Parkinson’s disease (PD). The findings can supposedly aid in introducing new medications for slowing or restricting this complication of the disease.

While conducting the investigation, experts discovered that the protein epidermal growth factor (EGF) is involved in controlling cell growth, proliferation, and differentiation. This protein seems to be a strong biomarker signal for cognitive impairment in PD. It was asserted that PD patients with low EGF levels and normal cognition are at a higher risk of subsequently develop serious cognitive impairments during the 21-month median follow-up period. Authors claim that 83 percent PD patients became demented over the long course of the illness.

John Q. Trojanowski, MD, PhD, director of the Penn Udall Center and co-director at Penn’s Center for Neurodegenerative Disease Research and senior author, quoted, “A test for cognitive impairment in PD could not only help patients in planning their futures, but by selecting patients at the greatest risk, we could significantly reduce the amount of time it would take to determine whether new drugs work.”

Duration of the disease and advanced age may be risk factors, but some patients experience cognitive impairment relatively soon after the disease strikes. On the other hand, some do not experience dementia until the very end of their disease. Approximately 20 percent patients seem to never have dementia. PD patients with EGF levels in the lowest range were probably eight times more capable of reporting dementia. And half the group registered dementia after 14 months.

The study is published in the current issue of the Annals of Neurology.