Researchers said on Thursday that they had found the earliest signs of Parkinson's disease in the years of the brain before patients showed symptoms, a discovery that could ultimately lead to better screening for risky people.
Parkinson's is a neurodegenerative disorder that causes patient movement and cognitive problems are thought to affect up to 10 million people worldwide.
It is diagnosed by a structure in the brain of a specific protein, α-synuclein, whose cause is unclear.
But some people are born with a genetic mutation that makes them almost certain to develop the disease at some point in their lives.
Researchers from King's College London compared data from 1
They found that changes in the serotonin system in the brain of Parkinson's disease started to work well before other symptoms occurred.  "We found that the serotonin function was an excellent marker for how advanced Parkinson's disease has become," said Heather Wilson of the University's Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience.
"Therefore, brain formation of the serotonin system can become a valuable tool for detecting people at risk of Parkinson's disease, monitoring their progression and assisting in the development of new therapies." levels of neurotransmitter dopamine, and there are growing signs of a possible relationship between Parkinson's and gut function, although this is poorly understood.
"To pick up the condition earlier and be able to monitor its progression would help the discovery of new and better treatments that could slow down the loss of brain cells in Parkinson's," said Beckie Port, Parkinson's UK research director who was not involved in the study.
"Further research is needed to fully understand the significance of this discovery, but if it is able to unlock a tool to measure and monitor how Parkinson's development evolves, it can change countless lives . "
The research was published in The Lancet Neurology.