University of Nebraska Developing Early Detection System For Parkinson's

Omaha researchers say they have a breakthrough in diagnosing Parkinson's disease.

An enhanced MRI technique can spot the disease earlier, and prescribe a better course of treatment. About 500,000 people in the United States have Parkinson's disease and the earlier it is detected, the better the disease responds to treatment.

The University of Nebraska Medical Center has developed a new medical technique called spectroscopic imaging. Right now the technique is being used on rodents.

"If we can go earlier, when 10 or 20 percent of the area of the brain is damaged, we believe we can intervene in positive way and prevent the ravages of Parkinson's disease," said Dr. Howard Gendelman.

So far, there are no noted side effects. Researchers said the technique is the second phase of the discovery.

"A few months ago, we first reported we had developed a vaccine for Parkinson's disease and testing it on rodents. We are now reporting the next stage of that progress," Gendelman said.

Doctors can currently only diagnose Parkinson's disease after a large amount of brain cells, that control movement are damaged.

"Most times 50, 60, even 70 percent of the nerve cells in areas that are most affected by Parkinson's are gone," Gendelman said.

Researchers hope they'll be able to test this technique on humans. They say that may be years away.