ASA Monitor February 2024, Vol. 88, 16.
Norepinephrine deficiencies could reveal likelihood of Parkinson’s and Lewy body dementia
In a recent National Institutes of Health (NIH) study, researchers utilized positron emission tomography (PET) scans of the heart to identify individuals at risk of developing Parkinson’s disease or Lewy body dementia. Scientists at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke conducted the trial over approximately seven years and focused on 34 people with Parkinson’s risk factors. PET scans assessed levels of the neurotransmitter norepinephrine, which is derived from dopamine, a substance deficient in the brains of those with Parkinson’s. The study revealed that individuals with preclinical Lewy body diseases exhibited cardiac abnormalities before the onset of visible motor symptoms. These findings suggest that PET scans of the heart could serve as a valuable tool for detecting the preclinical stages of these neurodegenerative diseases. The study’s scans successfully distinguished individuals who later developed Parkinson’s or Lewy body dementia. Notably, low 18F-dopamine-derived radioactivity in the heart was associated with a significantly higher likelihood of future diagnoses. Early identification may enable testing of preventative interventions, including lifestyle modifications, dietary supplements, or medications, potentially prolonging the time before symptomatic manifestation and providing a window for intervention.