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Can scientists predict or prevent Parkinson's disease?

In most cases, there is no way to predict or prevent sporadic Parkinson's disease. However, researchers are looking for a biomarker-a biochemical abnormality that all patients with Parkinson's disease might share-that could be picked up by screening techniques or by a simple chemical test given to people who do not have any parkinsonian symptoms. This could help doctors identify people who are at the risk of developing the disease. It also might allow doctors to find treatments that will stop the disease process in the early stages. Positron-emission tomography (PET) scanning may lead to important advances in our knowledge about Parkinson's disease. PET scans of the brain produce pictures of chemical changes as they occur. Using PET, research scientists can study the brain's dopamine receptors (sites on nerve cells that bind with dopamine) to determine if the loss of dopamine activity follows or precedes degeneration of neurons that make this chemical. This information could help scientists better understand the disease process and may potentially lead to improved treatments.

In rare cases, where people have a clearly inherited form of Parkinson's disease, researchers can test for known gene mutations as a way of determining an individual's risk of the disease. However, this genetic testing can have far-reaching implications and people should carefully consider whether they want to know the results of such tests. Genetic testing is currently available only as part of research studies.

This answer is based on source information from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.