FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) --One million Americans are living with Parkinson's disease. Right now, there's no way to tell these patients if they will have a mild or severe form of the disease. Now, a simple blood test may give Parkinson's patients a glimpse into their future.
Michael Weinman has been living with Parkinson's for 14 years. The degenerative disease has slowly robbed him of the ability to perform everyday tasks.
"I used to be able to run,(but) I can't run anymore," Weinman told ABC30. "I used to be able to carry my food to the table, I can't do that (anymore)."
However, Michael has kept a positive attitude through it all.
"I try to focus on what I can do," Weinman said.
"Definitely, he's a glass half-full," Weinman's wife, Nessa, told ABC30.
While Michael's disease has progressed slowly, Parkinson's patients don't know whether their disease will be mild or severe when they are diagnosed.
"Nobody who is a neurologist and sees patients can very well predict who will rapidly decline eventually need a wheelchair quite fast," Beate Ritz, MD, PhD, Chair, Dept. of Epidemiology Center for Occupational and Environmental Health, Fielding School of Public Health, UCLA, told ABC30.
Dr. Beate Ritz and colleagues studied recently-diagnosed Parkinson's patients. They took blood samples and found those with higher levels of a metabolite called N8-acetyl spermidine, declined much faster than those with lower levels.
"We found that this one metabolite seemed to really distinguish these two groups from each other," Dr. Ritz explained.
Weinman and his wife hope research like this will help others. They also walk in the annual "Mike Hike," which has raised over $40,000 for Parkinson's.
"Hopefully in the future, they'll be able to treat it and recognize it sooner," Weinman said.
Doctors say the next step is to conduct a larger study on this metabolite as a predictor of faster progression.
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