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New technology may help in early PD, MSA diagnosis

Texas residents battling neurodegenerative disorders may be interested in new technology that could help doctors distinguish better between two progressive forms of the disease. Both Parkinson's disease and multiple system atrophy (MSA) present similar early symptoms, but they require different treatments. The technology will help patients with neurodegenerative disorders get the treatment they need in a shorter period of time.

Researchers at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston looked at deposits of a protein that are responsible for both disorders forming. The proteins attach themselves to the cells in different ways. Though both disorders present with tremors, shaking, stiffness and loss of balance, MSA progresses quickly and causes brain cells to die. The only way to differentiate between Parkinson's disease and MSA in the past was by monitoring symptoms to see if they progressed to a worsened condition.

By using Protein Misfolding Cyclic Amplification, researchers at the university were able to successfully differentiate between the two disorders at an early stage with over 95% accuracy. The technology requires the collection of cerebrospinal fluid via spinal tap. Because spinal taps are painful and expensive, researchers hope to use the technology to successfully diagnose the two disorders using a blood or urine sample in the future.

Because MSA progresses so quickly, doctors must diagnose it right away to prevent complications from occurring and give the patient the best quality of life for as long as possible. Using a watch-and-see approach might allow the disease to progress too far quickly. Doctors have the responsibility to use whatever means necessary to correctly diagnose conditions. When they don't, they could be guilty of medical malpractice. In this case, a patient with advanced MSA may have been incorrectly treated for Parkinson's disease. Such a patient could potentially file a civil suit against the doctor for incorrectly diagnosing the condition.

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