Could analysing skin oil help diagnose Parkinson’s disease?

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Author: Sarah McGrathPublished: 7 October 2021

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An older man looks closely at himself in the mirror.

Parkinson’s disease patients tend to have high levels of oil, known as sebum, on their skin’s surface. Now, a study has suggested that analysing this substance may help when diagnosing the condition.

The study revealed that sebum contains significant amounts of genetic material, specifically the molecule ribonucleic acid (RNA). Analysis of RNA contained in sebum – that is, skin surface lipids RNA, or SSL-RNA – could offer insights into a person’s health.

Researchers in Japan examined SSL-RNA in men and women with and without Parkinson’s. The results suggested that the SSL-RNA profiles of those with Parkinson’s had “different characteristics” than those without.

The researchers then tested whether examining these profiles with machine learning could reveal those who had Parkinson’s – and who didn’t. The team’s algorithm indicated a “relatively robust discriminatory ability,” supporting the further use of SSL-RNA as part of a future “non-invasive” method for diagnosis.


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