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Scientists unveil new Parkinson's test

21st February 2007

A new test has been developed by Australian scientists which could point to a breakthrough in the diagnosis of Parkinson's disease.

The cost-effective silicon chip, revealed by researchers from Melbourne's Howard Florey Institute, will help diagnose people with genetic forms of the disease.

It is the first test of its kind - currently doctors diagnose Parkinson's by assessing a patient's symptom - and it is hoped it will help ensure the most suitable medication is prescribed.

Conventional DNA tests are available but cost thousands of dollars, while the latest rings in at just $500 (£200).

Lead researcher Justin Rubio said: "Around 100,000 Australians have Parkinson's disease but few have had DNA testing for the known genes that cause the disease due to the prohibitive cost."

He added: "In addition to providing a genetic diagnosis it is hoped that our chip will eventually be able to pinpoint genetic changes that help to predict a person's prognosis and even the treatment that best suits them.

"As the test is relatively cheap and only involves collecting a sample of blood or saliva, it could also be made available to the patient's relatives and those at risk of developing Parkinson's."

The chip would also allow researchers to map genes across the country to identify which are involved in the disease, Dr Rubio said.