HU student develops tool for early detection of Parkinson’s

2017 Kaye Innovation Award won by Phd student Suaad Abd Elhadi for novel diagnostic tool.

July 5, 2017 15:24
2 minute read.

Hebrew University campus . (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)


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A tool to better diagnose Parkinson’s disease at an early stage and improve treatment has been developed by a Hebrew University doctoral student.

For her efforts, Suaad Abd Elhadi – who is studying for her PhD at the Institute for Medical Research Israel-Canada in the university’s Faculty of Medicine – has been awarded a 2017 Kaye Innovation Award.

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Abd Elhadi developed the lipid ELISA (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 common assay technique that involves targeting cellular secretions.

Her novel diagnostic tool could lead to earlier detection of the eventually fatal neurological disease and better tracking of the disease’s progression and a patient’s response to therapy.

Parkinson’s is the second most common neurodegenerative disorder in humans, after Alzheimer’s disease. It is typically characterized by changes in motor control such as tremors and shaking, but can also include non-motor symptoms both cognitive and behavioral.

An estimated seven to 10 million people worldwide are living with Parkinson’s, and their medication costs about $2,500 a year each. Therapeutic surgery on the brain costs as much as $100,000 per patient.

Making an accurate diagnosis of Parkinson’s, 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 results of a neurological exam. One of the best hopes for improving diagnosis is to develop a reliable test for identifying a biomarker, i.e. a substance whose presence would indicate the presence of the disease.

In the case of the lipid ELISA, the cellular secretion of interest is a specific protein called the alpha-Synuclin protein. This protein serves as a convenient biomarker that is closely associated with the tissues where Parkinson’s can be detected, along with the neurological pathways the disease travels along, causing its characteristic symptoms.

As a simple and highly sensitive diagnostic tool that can detect Parkinson’s biomarkers, the lipid ELISA could lead to a minimally invasive and cost-effective way to improve the lives of Parkinson’s patients.

Recently, Abd Elhadi has demonstrated a proof of concept to the high potential of this lipid-ELISA assay in differentiating healthy and Parkinson’s affected subjects. She is 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 university, through Yissum – its technology transfer company – holds granted patents on the technology and has signed an agreement with Integra Holdings for further development and commercialization.

The annual Kaye Innovation Awards was established by British pharmaceutical industrialist Isaac Kaye in 1994 to encourage Hebrew University faculty, staff and students to develop innovative methods and inventions with good commercial potential that will benefit the university and society.

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