FRIDAY, March 21, 2008 (HealthDay News) -- Mutations in a gene called GIGYF2 may be directly linked to the development of Parkinson's disease in families with a history of the neurodegenerative condition, U.S. researchers report.
"These findings may ultimately help open the door to the development of new therapeutic -- and possibly even preventive -- strategies that target the underlying cause of Parkinson's disease, improving quality of life of the many people worldwide who are affected by this devastating disorder," senior author Dr. Robert J. Smith, professor of medicine at the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University, said in a prepared statement.
His team analyzed DNA samples from 249 Parkinson's patients with at least one first-degree relative (parent, child, sibling) with the disease, and compared them to DNA samples from 200 healthy people.
The researchers found that GIGYF2 resides on a chromosomal region called PARK11, which is linked to Parkinson's.
"Our data provides strong support for GIGYF2 as a PARK11 gene with a causal role in familial Parkinson's disease," said Smith, who is also director of the division of endocrinology and the Hallett Center for Diabetes and Endocrinology at Rhode Island Hospital.
"The next step is to zero in on this gene to learn more about its involvement in triggering Parkinson's. It will also be important to evaluate additional and larger families with Parkinson's and these genetic mutations, as well as the frequency of GIGYF2 mutations in patients with the more common, idiopathic form of the disease," he said.
The study appears online in the American Journal of Human Genetics and will be published in the April 11 print issue of the journal.
Smith and his colleagues said GIGYF2 is one of only a few genes so far linked to Parkinson's and one of just two genes known to be a common contributor to the disease, which has no known cause or cure and affects as many as one million Americans.
They noted that less than one-quarter of all Parkinson's cases are familial. But findings about genes like GIGYF2 could improve understanding of the mechanisms behind Parkinson's and may help lead to new treatments for all forms of the disease, the researchers said.
They also identified a possible association between Parkinson's and insulin and the related growth hormone called insulin-like growth factor (IGF). This adds to a growing body of research linking insulin and IGF to Parkinson's, Alzheimer's and other neurodegenerative diseases.
"A better understanding of the link between insulin or IGF and Parkinson's may lead us to new treatment strategies for Parkinson's and also new insights into the connection between diabetes and nervous system disorders," Smith said.
We Move has more about Parkinson's disease.