Researchers with the Parkinson Progression Marker Initiative (PPMI) have found that dopamine transporter (DAT) scanning can be an effective tool in identifying prodromal Parkinson’s disease (PD) in REM sleep behavior disorder (RBD), according to a study released at the 19th International Congress of Parkinson’s Disease and Movement Disorders. The PPMI aims to identify one or more biomarkers of Parkinson’s disease progression, which is a crucial step in research and development of new and improved treatments for PD.

This study evaluated a cohort of prodromal subjects within the PPMI with RBD and DAT deficit to examine the biomarkers in the earliest stages of PD. Several studies have already shown that RBD is a substantial risk factor for the development of PD, but this study found that approximately 50% of subjects, identified by sleep studies and clinical criteria as those with RBD, showed a DAT deficit.

Ron Postuma, associate professor at Montreal General Hospital, says in a release:  “Long-term studies have now definitively shown that most patients with idiopathic RBD are in fact in early (prodromal) stages of neurodegenerative disease. This study shows that this prodromal status can be demonstrated with DAT scanning. It will be extremely interesting to watch how these patients evolve over time, both to see how the DAT deficit progresses, and how strongly it can predict when a patient with prodromal disease converts to full clinical disease….Finally, this study illustrates that patients like this represent the ideal candidate population for a neuroprotective trial against PD and DLB.”