A doctoral student at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem won the Kaye Innovation Award for developing a test that could revolutionize early detection of Parkinson’s disease in patients.
Parkinson’s disease is the second most common neurodegenerative disorder in humans, after Alzheimer’s disease. Seven to 10 million people worldwide are living with Parkinson’s disease. It is characterized by changes in motor control such as tremors and shaking, but can also include non-motor symptoms, from the cognitive to the behavioral. Medication costing approximately $2,500 a year, and a surgery costing up to $100,000, per patient.
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Making an accurate diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease, particularly in early stages and mild cases, is difficult, and there are currently no standard diagnostic tests other than clinical information provided by the patient and the findings of a neurological exam. One of the best hopes for improving diagnosis is to develop a reliable test for identifying changes in the severity of the disease. It will allow drug companies to test potential drugs for higher efficacy.
Now, a novel diagnostic approach developed at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Faculty of Medicine could pave the way toward such a test. Ph.D. student Suaad Abd-Elhadi research conducted under the supervision of Dr. Ronit Sharon. She developed the lipid ELISA, an approach that could lead to earlier detection of Parkinson’s, along with better tracking of the disease’s progression and a patient’s response to therapy.
Yissum, Hebrew University’s technology transfer company, has signed an agreement with Integra Holdings for further development and commercialization of the test.
How the ELISA works
ELISA stands for “enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay.” An assay is a procedure used in laboratory settings to assess the presence, amount, and activity of a target entity, such as a drug, cell or biochemical substance. ELISA is a standard assay technique that involves targeting cellular secretions.
In the case of the lipid ELISA, the cell flow of interest is a particular protein called the alpha-Synuclin protein. This protein serves as a useful biomarker that closely associated with the tissues where Parkinson’s disease can be detected, along with the neurological pathways the disease travels along, causing its characteristic symptoms.
The development of a simple and highly sensitive diagnostic tool that can detect Parkinson’s biomarkers could lead to a minimally invasive and cost-effective way to improve the lives of Parkinson’s patients. Toward this end, Abd-Elhadi has recently demonstrated a proof of concept to the high potential of the lipid-ELISA assay in differentiating healthy and Parkinson’s affected subjects. She is now in the process of analyzing a large cohort of samples, including moderate and severe Parkinson’s, and control cases, as part of a clinical study.
The Kaye Innovation Award was instituted in 1994 by British healthcare giant Isaac Kaye to encourage Hebrew University students and faculty to develop inventions that have commercial potential.