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A Key to Detecting Brain Disease Earlier Than Ever

By Michael J. Fox and Deborah W. Brooks, WIRED

The Michael J. Fox Foundation’s recent biomarker discovery, paired with “alpha-synuclein seeding amplification assay[s]” (SAA) can determine with 90% accuracy who has the pathology for Parkinson’s disease. One of the main reasons why SAA technology is so revolutionary is because it has been incredibly difficult to determine who suffers from alpha-synuclein dysfunctions in the past.

Moreover, with Parkinson’s disease in particular, many patients do not fit the traditional list of symptoms that are used to diagnose this disorder in the first place. Biomarker technologies like SAA help alleviate these concerns and help patients get diagnosed sooner rather than later. By integrating this technology into drug trials, researchers can objectively identify patients with brain disorders like Parkinson’s, and we will see a variety of new drug treatments enter the biopharma industry moving forward. 

Beyond biomarkers and SAA, scientists have also noticed a link between neurodegeneration and smell loss. In particular, “half of those over age 60 are living with some degree of smell loss”. When this is paired with major brain diseases like Parkinson’s, the correlation between neurodegeneration and loss of smell only strengthens. To continue investigating this relationship, a large-scale observational study by the Michael J. Fox Foundation used a scratch-and-sniff test to identify at-risk individuals, and validated Parkinson’s biology with SAA biomarkers– “accurately diagnosing disease in 99 percent of people with poor smell and so-called sporadic Parkinson’s”. While scratch-and-sniff tests are seemingly simple, when paired with renowned diagnostic tools like SAA biomarkers– researchers will continue to spearhead the field of brain disease detection as we know it.

By Manju Karthikeyan

Abortions by Telemedicine and Mailed Pills Are Safe and Effective, Study Finds

By Pam Belluck, The New York Times

In 2021, the Federal Government permitted the prescription and mailing of mifepristone, an abortion pill, through telehealth services, and a recent study confirms that the pills are as safe and effective as those administered at a traditional doctor’s office. 

The study examined the abortion experience of 6,000 patients, all within the first ten weeks of their pregnancy, who were prescribed the pills. Of the patients, 92% of them were screened for medical eligibility solely through written and/or verbal information regarding their pregnancy, which eliminates the typical necessity of undergoing an ultrasound as part of the abortion procedure. 

The study concluded that 97.7% of the patients who used the abortion pills did not need additional services to complete the abortion, and there was no difference in safety and efficacy when compared to in-person medication abortion. Moreover, no difference was found between those who received the prescription through video consultation versus written consultation, such as text messaging. 

These findings are vital, especially since a lawsuit against medication abortion is currently being filed by abortion opponents. While still legal, heavy restrictions have been placed on the prescription and mailing of mifepristone. Nonetheless, the findings of this study can serve as arguments against these restrictions in the upcoming Supreme Court case. 

By Julia Roth

Items contributed by: Manju Karthikeyan, Julia Roth