Research Sheds Light on Causes of Parkinson's

Gene mutations linked to both common and rarer hereditary forms of disease

SUNDAY, Nov. 15, 2009 (HealthDay News) -- Gene mutations linked to inherited Parkinson's disease also appear to be connected to the more common form of the disease that strikes people whose relatives don't have it, researchers now say.

The findings come from the largest Parkinson's disease genetic study of its kind, published online Nov. 15 in Nature Genetics.

In the study, an international team of researchers confirmed that mutations in the alpha-synuclein gene and microtubule associated protein tau boost the risk of developing Parkinson's disease.

Parkinson's, a neurological disorder, affects about 1.5 million Americans and disrupts the body's ability to move properly.

"With this better understanding of the underlying genetic variants involved in the progress of this disorder, we have more insight into the causes and underlying biology of this disease," Andrew B. Singleton, chief of the neurogenetics laboratory at the U.S. National Institute on Aging and co-leader of the study, said in a news release from the agency. "We hope this new understanding will one day provide us with strategies to delay, or even prevent, the development of Parkinson's disease."

Dr. Richard J. Hodes, director of the institute, said in the news release that the findings "support the notion that the sporadic and rare familial forms of the disease are related and that common genetic variability plays a role in developing the disorder."

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke has more on Parkinson's disease.

SOURCE: U.S. National Institute on Aging, news release, Nov. 15, 2009
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