New Parkinson's Test: Predicting Dementia

FRESNO, Calif.

54-year-old Michael Young had never ridden a motorcycle before, but he got a brand new cruiser last year, an impulse buy, but for Young, it was now or never.

"I knew if I had Parkinson's disease, I was going to have a limited amount of time to do the things I wanted to do in life," Michael Young told Ivanhoe.

Young was diagnosed in 2008. He had been having tremors and a difficult time moving, hallmark symptoms of the disease. Parkinson's disease expert doctor Alice Chen-Plotkin says 80-percent of Parkinson's patients who've had the disease for 20 years or more develop dementia.

She adds there's been no way to tell how at risk any given patient might be. In the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, researchers examined 150 different proteins in the blood. They found one called epidermal growth factor, or EGF, that may predict a patient's cognitive function.

"What we found was that people who had low EGF levels were much more likely to develop dementia over the next two years, eight-times more likely than people in other groups," Alice Chen-Plotkin, M.D., from the Department of Neurology at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania explained.

Doctor Chen-Plotkin says if doctors can determine a patient's dementia risk, it could speed upclinical trials of new therapies. It can also help patients prepare for what may lie ahead.

"One quote that I'm fond of repeating, and it's something Muhammad Ali said, 'don't count the days, make the days count," Michael said.

The EGF blood test is not currently available, except to patients involved in research studies. Doctor Chen-Plotkin says follow-up studies on the EGF blood test will conclude next year.

If this story or any other Ivanhoe story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Marsha Hitchcock at

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