Jun 27, 2013 1:42 PM by Ryan Haarer
TUCSON - The Michael J. Fox Foundation recently granted Tucson-based MSDx $75,000 dollars with the task of detecting Parkinson's Disease long before the major symptoms hit.
"The problem with Parkinson's disease is by the time you diagnose it, with shaking hands or something like that, all the nerves involved in controlling that have been damaged or destroyed. So coming in with a treatment is no use at that point," said Dr. Ramesh Nayak, director of research for MSDx.
MSDx is a company developing monitoring and diagnostic products for brain diseases. Working out of the business incubator labs at the UA Tech Park, they've already been successful with monitoring the progression of multiple sclerosis. The Michael J. Fox Foundation has given them the chance to move into Parkinson's.
"So when these nerves degenerate, this damaged nerve tissue is just sitting there, and the immune system is activated. Cells from the immune system come from the blood, gobble up this damaged material, and we found that some of these cells come back into the blood stream," said Nayak.
Those damaged nerves in that blood have a dark pigment, a sign of Parkinson's. That is what the folks at MSDx are looking for in this study.
"By the time you get hand tremors, 80 percent of these nerves are dead. if we can pick this up when 10 or 20 percent are injured, then neuro-protective drugs can be given and expected to have a beneficial effect."
While it's not a cure, Dr. Nayak believes drug companies will jump on the chance to greatly improve the quality of life if it can be detected early enough to make a difference.