Metabolites in Sebum May Predict Parkinson Disease

With no conclusive preclinical diagnostic test for Parkinson disease, diagnosis is achieved primarily through observations by a physician of the decline in motor functions. And while studies of sebum are commonplace in dermatological conditions, sebum as a biofluid has rarely been used in disease diagnostics.

Metabolites found in sebum can be used to identify potential biomarkers for Parkinson disease (PD), according to a recent study published in Nature Communications.

There is no pre-clinical diagnostic test for PD. Non-motor symptoms such as sleep and mood disorders precede motor symptoms by up 20 years. One of those non-motor symptoms is seborrhoeic dermatitis, or oily skin that produces an abundance of sebum. The researchers hypothesized that the substance would reveal clues into PD.

The researchers used liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (LC-MS) to “separate and detect lipid-like species and small molecules present in sebum.” The researchers then used data-driven approaches to look for biomarkers of PD.

The researchers analyzed sebum from 274 participants: 138 on Parkinson disease medication, 80 with the disease but drug free, and 56 control subjects.

The researchers found the sebum concentration was different in the PD participants compared to the control group.

“The overlap of ten metabolites from separate statistical analyses for drug naïve PD and medicated PD strengthens the evidence, that these compounds are associated with PD and not associated with dopaminergic medication,” the researchers stated. “This is further supported by the identification of common pathways between the two PD classes that are significantly enriched.”


Sinclair E, Trivedi DK, Sarkar D, et al. Metabolomics of sebum reveals lipid dysregulation in Parkinson’s disease. Nat Commun. 2021 Mar 11;12(1):1592. doi:10.1038/s41467-021-21669-4

This article originally appeared on Psychiatry Advisor