"Until now, pathological confirmation was not possible without a brain biopsy, so these diseases often go unrecognized until after the disease has progressed," said study author Ildefonso Rodriguez-Leyva from the University of San Luis Potosi in San Luis Potosi, Mexico.

"We hypothesized that since skin has the same origin as brain tissue while in the embryo that they might also show the same abnormal proteins. This new test offers a potential biomarker that may allow doctors to identify and diagnose these diseases earlier on," Rodriguez-Leyva added.

For the study, researchers took skin biopsies from 20 people with Alzheimer's disease, 16 with Parkinson's disease and 17 with dementia caused by other conditions and compared them to 12 healthy people in the same age group.

They tested these skin samples to see if specific types of altered proteins were found ones that indicate a person has Alzheimer's or Parkinson's.

As compared to healthy patients and ones with dementia caused by other conditions, those with both Alzheimer's and Parkinson's had seven times higher levels of the tau protein associated with risk of Alzheimer's disease.

People with Parkinson's also had eight times higher level of alpha-synuclein protein than the healthy control group.

The findings are scheduled to be presented at the American Academy of Neurology's 67th Annual Meeting in Washington, DC, from April 18 to 25, 2015.

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