Michelle M. Mielke, Ph.D.
Department of Health Sciences Research
Division of Epidemiology
Mayo Clinic 200 First Street SW
Rochester, MN 55905
MedicalResearch.com: What are the main findings of the study?
Dr. Mielke: Among Parkinson’s disease (PD) patients, plasma levels of ceramides and monohexylceramides were higher in patients with cognitive impairment or dementia compared to patients who were cognitively normal. Levels of these lipids were also higher in the combined group of PD patients compared to non-PD controls but the number of controls were small.
MedicalResearch.com: Were any of the findings unexpected?
Dr. Mielke: Previous studies have not examined plasma levels of ceramides and glucosylceramides in PD patients. We hypothesized that plasma levels of ceramides and monohexylceramides would be altered in PD patients and associated with worse cognition, but we did not expect some of the associations to be as strong as they were.
MedicalResearch.com: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?
Dr. Mielke: There are currently no biomarkers to predict who will develop sporadic PD, or cognitive impairment in patients with PD. The present findings suggest that plasma ceramide and monohexylceramides could be indicators of who will develop cognitive impairment. This pathway should be examined as a potential therapeutic target for the prevention of, or slowing of, Parkinson’s disease progression.
MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?
Dr. Mielke: As this is really the first look at these plasma lipids, there is a lot of work to be done. Future studies will use additional mass spectrometry techniques to separate monohexylceramides into glucosylceramides and galactosylceramides. This is important as the findings are likely driven by glucosylceramides and could be an even stronger predictor when quantified separately. Longitudinal studies of PD patients are also ongoing to determine whether these lipids can predict who will develop dementia and the rate of cognitive decline.
Michelle M. Mielke, Walter Maetzler, Norman J. Haughey, Veera V. R. Bandaru, Rodolfo Savica, Christian Deuschle, Thomas Gasser, Ann-Kathrin Hauser, Susanne Gräber-Sultan, Erwin Schleicher, Daniela Berg, Inga Liepelt-Scarfone