A new study undertaken by researchers at the National Institute of Health has led to the discovery of six new genetic risk factors for Parkinson’s, which provides a better understanding of the condition and opens the door to new treatment techniques.
Parkinson’s is a degenerative neurological condition which affects in excess of 500000 people in the US. Each year about 50000 more are diagnosed with the condition and it is expected that the numbers will increase as the population ages.
The exact cause of the disease is unknown, however recent research has identified a number of genes that may increase a person’s risk of developing the disease.
The latest study involved a large analysis of existing association studies, which involved 13708 individuals with Parkinson’s and 95282 controls.
The research team worked in association with other private and public organisation to gather the data, including the Michael J. Fox Foundation and the US Department of Defence.
Their analysis, which tested in excess of 7.8m genetic variants, resulted in the identification of 26 genetic variants which may increase a person’s risk of developing the disorder. In certain instances, they discovered that people who are in possession of these variants may be up to three times more likely to develop the disease.
The researchers looked for confirmation that these 26 variants, along with six other variants which have already been linked to Parkinson’s, increase the risk among 5353 individuals suffering the condition and 5551 controls.
This was done by comparing the 32 genetic variants with those on an advanced gene chip, NeuroX, which consists of 24000 common genetic variants which are linked to a range of neurodegenerative disorders.
This analysis allowed Andrew Singleton and his team to confirm 24 genetic variants which may increase the risk of an individual to Parkinson’s. This included six which were previously undiscovered.
The researchers say that some of the new identified risk factors may play a role in Gaucher’s disease, which is an inherited disorder which inhibits the production of the enzyme glucocerebrosidase in the body. This results in an accumulation of fatty substances in sections of the body, including the brain.
The genes which have been identified regulate inflammation, dopamine and a protein named alpha-synuclein, which is known to accumulate within the brains of some Parkinson’s sufferers.
According to the author of the study, Margaret Sutherland, PhD, the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke’s programme director, the findings indicate the usefulness of the NeuroX chip for increasing the understanding of Parkinson’s and other disorders. She said the power of these high level genomic methods allows researchers and scientists to find the needle in the haystack which could lead to new treatment options.
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