“What is a biomarker?” (APDA)

“What is a biomarker?” (APDA)

A biomarker is a measurable characteristic in the body that indicates that a particular disease is present.  So, for Parkinson’s Disease (PD), this would be proof that someone has PD.  Right now, the only way to confirm if someone has had PD is through brain donation.  The American Parkinson Disease Association (APDA) recently published a list of great resources on PD biomarkers. 

From the American Parkinson Disease Association, January 18, 2020:

What is a biomarker?

A big obstacle of diagnosing Parkinson’s disease (PD) is that there is no definitive test to confirm whether or not you have the disease. For many other diseases there is a biomarker that can be measured to indicate if you do or don’t have the disease. While there are some biomarkers for PD, they have their limitations and new, more reliable biomarkers are needed.

But what is a biomarker?  Abiomarker is a measurable characteristic in the body that indicates that a particular disease is present.  So essentially, it is medical proof that you do or don’t have the disease.  A biomarker can be a lab test of any bodily fluid or substance, an imaging test, or even a clinical test (for example a part of the neurologic exam). Some common examples of biomarkers are hemoglobin A1c for monitoring of diabetes, or troponin for detection of a heart attack.

Currently, there is an explosion of research attempting to find a biomarker for PD to allow for simpler diagnosis of PD, some of which APDA is funding. We also receive many questions about biomarkers from all of you. So to help you better understand, we’ve gathered some of our resources about biomarkers:

The Basics of Biomarkers for PD: In this edition of A Closer Look, Dr. Gilbert explains what biomarkers are and why finding them for PD is so important.

One Researcher’s Quest for a PD BiomarkerWe hear directly from Dr. Mohammad Shahnawaz, an APDA-funded researcher who is trying to identify the underlying mechanisms that cause PD and other neurodegenerative disorders, and developing early biomarkers for these diseases.

The “Smell” of PD – a Potential Biomarker? Reports that PD has a unique odor have sparked efforts to determine what substance creates that odor and whether it can be used as a biomarker in the future.

Wearable Technology as a BiomarkerWearable technology is being used to diagnose, monitor, and manage PD and has uses in clinical management and in clinical trials. Learn more about how various sensors and gadgets can provide insight and help diagnosis.

Clinical Trials for Biomarkers: Dr. David Standaert, the chairman of APDA’s Scientific Advisory Board, provides a great overview of clinic trials and how they can lead to possible new treatments, including the role of biomarkers in some current studies.

DaTscan as a Biomarker: Many people are curious about the use of DaTscan as a biomarker for PD. Learn more about this form of imaging test and the pros and cons of using DaTscan in the diagnosis of PD.

We hope you find these resources useful and we encourage you to share them with others who might like to know more. 

Please do not hesitate to reach out via our APDA helpline at (800-223-2732) or emails us at apda@apdaparkinson.org.