Gene Chip Finds New Genetic Risk Factors for Parkinson’s Disease

New research has identified over two dozen genetic risk factors involved in Parkinsonism, including six that were previously unknown. The findings were published in Nature Genetics and partially funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Andrew Singleton, PhD, from the National Institute on Aging (NIA), and colleagues conducted a meta-analysis of collected and combined data from existing genome-wide association studies (GWAS) of 7,893,274 variants from 13,708 Parkinsonism cases and 95,282 controls. NeuroX, a gene chip that compared genetic regions to sequences, contains the codes of approximately 24,000 common gene variants believed to be linked to many neurodegenerative disorders and was utilized in this study. Twenty-six loci were identified as having a genome-wide significant association with Parkinsonism to add to six previously reported loci. In particular, four loci, including GBA, GAK-DGKQ, SNCA, and the HLA region, contain a secondary independent risk variant. As the number of genetic risk factors increased in an individual, their risk of developing Parkinsonism was as much as three times greater in some cases. The results were also confirmed in a separate sample of 5,353 patients with Parkinsonism and 5,551 controls.

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In addition, some of the newly identified genetic risk factors are also believed to be associated with Gaucher’s disease regarding inflammation and dopamine and alpha-synuclein, a protein shown to accumulate in the brains of some Parkinsonism patients. The researchers hope to conduct further studies to better understand the roles of these genetic risk factors in these and other neurodegenerative disorders.

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