Technion - Israel Institute of Technology (Technion's Flickr)

Technion – Israel Institute of Technology (Technion’s Flickr)

A breath test similar to the one trialled in cancer diagnosis could be used to revolutionise the detection of Parkinson’s disease.

Scientists from the Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa and University of Cambridge will aim to offer the first definitive diagnostic test for the degenerative neurological condition. They will collaborate as part of the British Council’s Britain Israel Research and Academic Exchange programme (BIRAX).

Currently, those looking to get tested for Parkinson’s have to book an appointment with their doctor before being referred to a movement disorder specialist.

But a new study of 200 people – backed by Parkinson’s UK and the British Council – will examine if a breath test can identify those with the disease at an early stage.

It follows the announcement of a similar trial to detect lung cancer, also led by British researchers.

rofessor Hossam Haick, of the Russell Berrie Nanotechnology Institute, Technion told the Jewish News: “There’s an urgent need to diagnose Parkinson earlier, when treatment is more effective. This is a potential step towards developing a handheld device that could aid Parkinson screening and diagnosis. It could also be used to help match patients to the right treatment by providing doctors with a snapshot of the genetic makeup of their individual disease. But first we need to do further tests with the breath of real patients to see whether this method can accurately diagnose early stages of Parkinson and to monitor the related treatments.”

Professor Roger Barker, who is heading the clinical side of the study at the University of Cambridge, said: “Looking at the breath of people with Parkinson’s is an exciting new venture, we’re hoping it will not only improve diagnosis, but also that it will tell us more about how Parkinson’s develops and whether there are different types of Parkinson’s. The biggest hope would be that there may be molecules in the breath of people with Parkinson’s which throw up new options for drug targets.”

Matthew Gould, British Ambassador to Israel, commended the project, saying: “Science is right at the heart of the UK-Israel relationship. Top British and Israeli scientists are already collaborating to develop cures to some of the most awful diseases.

“I am delighted that so many medical research powerhouses have now given their support to this collaboration.”

This was echoed by Alan Gemmell, Director of the British Council in Israel  heralded the relationship. “When the UK’s education and research sectors engage with Israel, the benefits go beyond our two countries and can be truly universal”.