YOUR HEALTH: A key blood test that could better detect Parkinson’s

Doctors believe they have found a quicker way to measure dopamine, a key indicator for brain disorders like Parkinson’s.

ORLANDO, Florida – Dopamine is a chemical that plays a vital role in diseases like Parkinson's and depression.

But monitoring a person's dopamine levels can be a cumbersome process that involves complicated MRI testing.

It is a difficult disease to diagnose and monitor.

"Dopamine measurement plays an important role for people suffering from Parkinson's," a professor at the University of Central Florida.

Too little dopamine has been associated with Parkinson's and depression.

Statistics show that by the year 2020, nearly one million people in the U.S. will have Parkinson's disease.

"The traditional methods are very hard for people because we have to send it to laboratories and they have to look at cultures and stuff like that and that takes a lot of time," a Biomedical Sciences student at UCF.

It could take hours or even days.

So Professor Chanda and his team developed the first ever rapid detector for dopamine.

It only requires a few drops of blood and it gives results in seconds.   It uses a chip that separates plasma from the blood.

"And then when the plasma flows through that sodium oxide coated nano structure surface that dopamine selectively binds or get captured by the surface," said Professor Chanda.

Using an infrared light, researchers can measure how much dopamine is concentrated in the blood.   This method can be very useful in determining whether a medication is effective.

NEW TECHNOLOGY:   Using nanotechnology, researchers separate plasma from the blood within the chip.   Cerium oxide nanoparticles, which coat the sensor surface, selectively capture dopamine at microscopic levels from the plasma.   The capture of dopamine molecules subsequently changes how light is reflected from the sensor and creates an optical readout indicating the level of dopamine.

"How do you adjust that person's medication, depends on the dopamine level in the brain," said Chanda.

Chanda says this is just the first step in giving people the ability to monitor their own brain activity.

"Like the way you detect or monitor your blood sugar or blood glucose level," added Chanda.

Professor Chanda's research team is also using the same technology to perform experiment to detect for viruses, like the dengue virus.

If this story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Jim Mertens at jim.mertens@wqad.com or Marjorie Bekaert Thomas at mthomas@ivanhoe.com.