June 12, 2012 - New research suggests that Parkinson's disease may be diagnosed years prior to symptom onset by examining the results of colonoscopy scope.
Researchers at Rush University Medical Center studied 10 subjects with early Parkinson’s disease with a flexible sigmoidoscopy. This procedure is similar to a colonoscopy, in which a scope is inserted about 8 inches into the intestine and which requires no colon preparation or anesthesia. Flexible sigmoidoscopy only takes 5-10 minutes.
Constipation is a common problem in Parkinson's disease and may precede clinical diagnosis by a decade or more. In studying the samples of tissues obtained 2-5 years prior to the first symptom of Parkinson's disease, three of the research subjects showed alphasynuclein, the characteristic protein of both Parkinson's disease and Lewy body dementia, in the wall of the lower intestine; none of the healthy subjects had alphasynuclein in the tissue samples.
More research is needed to determine the potential value of colonoscopy or flexible sigmoidoscopy as a biomarker for Lewy body-related disorders.