A lab on a chip breath test could help revolutionise the way Parkinson’s disease is being diagnosed, scientists believe.
Following a small study involving 57 individuals that proved markers in the breath of Parkinson’s disease sufferers could be used to spot the condition, Cambridge University researchers will launch a trial involving 200 people to verify the concept.
The news comes one day after an announcement that a similar microchip-based device will be trialled in some NHS hospitals to detect lung cancer.
"Looking at the breath of people with Parkinson's is an exciting new venture, we're hoping it will not only improve diagnosis, but also that it will tell us more about how Parkinson's develops and whether there are different types of Parkinson's,” said Professor Roger Barker, who leads the Cambridge University research team.
"The biggest hope would be that there may be molecules in the breath of people with Parkinson's which throw up new options for drug targets."
Similarly to the lung cancer detector, the technology would aim to spot the disease at early stages and provide conclusive evidence whether the patient does or does not suffer from the neurodegenerative ailment.
"We've been struggling for decades to find a definitive diagnostic test for Parkinson's,” said Arthur Roach, director of research and development at Parkinson's UK, which backs the study together with the British Council.
"Brain scans, blood tests and urine samples don't tell a doctor definitively if someone has the condition, and as a result there is often doubt, and even error, in the diagnosis at early stages."
The University of Cambridge team will work with engineers from the Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa to develop a solution.
There are around 7.5 million people in the world suffering from the disease which gradually affects the patient’s speech, mobility and quality of life. 127,000 sufferers are registered in the UK alone.