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Sunday, 8 July, 2001, 01:16 GMT 02:16 UK
Correct diagnosis hope for Parkinson's
Parkinson's causes shaking and muscle stiffness
Researchers are working on a technique to help doctors ensure Parkinson's Disease patients are correctly diagnosed.

Almost one in five people are wrongly diagnosed with Parkinson's because it can currently only be accurately detected after death.

But the scientists at Sheffield University believe they may have found a way to diagnose the disease more accurately.

They think the key could be the level of iron content in the brain.

And they plan to test their theory by carrying out a series of tests using brain scanning equipment.

Iron is essential for a number of brain processes, but increased levels could be damaging to the individual and may result in neurodegeneration.

The exact cause of the illness is still unknown, and as yet there is no accurate way of diagnosing whether a living patient has Parkinson's Disease

Professor Paul Griffiths

The team has been backed by more than 66,000 from the medical research charity Action Research.

Parkinson's Disease is a progressive neurodegenerative disorder in which sufferers become progressively slow, stiff and shaky.

It effects one in every 100 people over the age of 65, although there are cases of people like actor Michael J Fox getting it much younger.

Lead researcher Professor Paul Griffiths, who is head of neuro-imaging at Sheffield's Royal Hallamshire Hospital, said: "The exact cause of the illness is still unknown, and as yet there is no accurate way of diagnosing whether a living patient has Parkinson's Disease. Only a post-mortem can define the disease.

"Current techniques - in which medics carry out an assessment based on a set of clinical criteria - mean that almost one in five patients are wrongly diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease when they have another condition with similar symptoms such as multiple system atrophy (MSA)."

He added: "The aim is to develop a diagnostic technique to distinguish Parkinson's Disease from MSA, so that time consuming tests in the clinic are not necessary, and also to improve our understanding of the disease process."

The work is being funded by the medical charity Action Research.

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14 Dec 00 | Health
Parkinson's 'runs in families'
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