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Heart Scans May Help Identify People at Risk of Parkinson’s

In a new study, researchers from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) used positron emission tomography (PET) scanning to find that low levels of dopamine in the heart can predict later development of Parkinson’s disease or dementia with Lewy bodies.

For their research, the team used PET scans of the heart to indicate that at-risk individuals with low 18F-dopamine-derived radioactivity in the heart were highly likely to develop Parkinson’s disease or dementia with Lewy bodies during long-term follow-up. The scientists believe that this could be a good method to determine which people with risk factors for Parkinson’s disease and Lewy body dementia are at the highest risk to develop one of these conditions.

Dr. Michael S. Okun, director of the Norman Fixel Institute for Neurological Diseases at the University of Florida Health, and medical advisor at Parkinson’s Foundation, who was not involved in the research, commented on the results of the study: “If a biomarker using cardiac noradrenergic deficiency can be shown to identify a disease process that will eventually progress to dementia with Lewy Bodies this could be really useful for future clinical trials in this population.”

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