Skin in Parkinson's disease - a potential biomarker?

Parkinsonism is characterized by slowness, stiffness, tremor and poor balance. Parkinson's disease (PD) is a progressive, incurable neurological disease and the most common cause of Parkinsonism. PD is caused by a reduced level of a chemical (dopamine) in an area of the brain responsible for automatic movement control. Current diagnosis is clinical and definitive confirmation can only be obtained at autopsy. The clinical diagnosis is dependent on a clinician's skill but misdiagnosis may be as high as 25%. It is important to distinguish PD from other atypical forms of Parkinsonism. These can resemble PD but respond poorly to dopamine replacement and carry a worse prognosis. PD poses a major burden on society with 7-10 million people affected worldwide. The annual European cost for PD is estimated at 13.9 billion euro.

Currently there is no test (biomarker) to monitor or diagnose PD. A simple and cheap biomarker is needed. However most on-going biomarker studies involve invasive methods. Skin sebum production has a potential to be cheap, non-invasive, pain-free test to monitor and diagnose the disease. Strangely there has been little skin research in PD since 1980s.

We propose to use a non-invasive and pain free method to study the skin in PD. We will use: a machine called Sebumeter and adhesive strips resembling sellotape which have never been used in PD research (Sebutape and Dsquame discs to measure skin sebum levels, hydration, pH and lipid composition. (Image 1)

Our early results show a relationship between sebum level and the severity of PD. Our early data suggest that sebum measurement could be a potential marker or biomarker for PD.


Award Date
29 June 2017
Award Value
Principal Investigator
Professor Tim Lynch
Host Institution
University College Dublin
Investigator Led Projects