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Noninvasive Biomarker to Measure the Progression of Parkinson’s Disease

Improves Clinical Trials and Potential of Therapeutic Treatments for Parkinson’s Disease

This noninvasive imaging biomarker uses free-water levels revealed in MRI scans of the brain to indicate the progression of Parkinson’s disease in a patient. Parkinson’s disease is a chronic and progressive movement disorder of the nervous system; the cause is unknown, and no cure is available. The disease causes a person’s brain to slowly stop producing a neurotransmitter called dopamine, specifically in the substantia nigra. Without dopamine the individual begins to experience movement-related problems such as tremors and slowness. As many as 1 million Americans live with Parkinson’s disease, but the patients’ symptoms rather than measurable findings in the body prompt the diagnosis. Likewise, progression of the disease is based on patients’ ratings. Since symptomatic medications taken by patients can influence the outcomes of patients’ ratings, the rating scales are difficult to interpret in disease modifying trials.
Researchers at the University of Florida have a discovered an imaging biomarker that estimates the fractional volume of extracellular free water in the substantia nigra as revealed in diffusion MRIs. Using this biomarker, medical professionals can analyze the progression of Parkinson’s disease, and other similar diseases characterized by Parkinsonism, making clinical trials more efficient.



Non-invasive imaging biomarker that measures the progression of Parkinson’s disease



  • Utilizes MRI data to measure free-water levels in the substantia nigra, providing a noninvasive analysis of Parkinson’s disease progression
  • Establishes a quantitative biomarker for Parkinson’s disease, avoiding unreliable rating scale assessments to greatly improve clinical or disease-modifying trials
  • Differentiates Parkinson’s disease from other forms of Parkinsonism (i.e. multiple system atrophy and progressive supranuclear palsy) and enables earlier diagnosis and better risk detection, increasing the success of treatment outcomes


This biomarker uses free-water imaging in the substantia nigra to quantitatively evaluate Parkinson’s disease progression. An MRI scans a patient’s brain and analysis of a portion of the image determines the free-water fraction. Computer software analyzes the imaging data to determine the free-water level in the substantia nigra, other basal ganglia regions, thalamus, and cerebellar regions. The technology can help physicians determine if a patient has Parkinson’s and/or another similar disease. Additionally, it can quantify a read-out to evaluate a medication's effects on progression in a disease-modifying clinical trial.

Patent Information:
App Type: Patent No.: Patent Status:
US from PCT 10,758,170 Issued CON 11,439,341 Issued