Subscribe to the BioNews newsletter for free

Advanced Search

Search for

Like the Progress Educational Trust on Facebook



Parkinson's disease study finds genetic links

23 August 2010

By Dr Lux Fatimathas

Appeared in BioNews 572

Genetic defects in the immune system may be associated with Parkinson's disease, according to a recent study published in Nature Genetics. The genome wide association study (GWAS) is the first to link mutations in a gene in the human leukocyte antigen (HLA) region, which is known to be involved in immunity, to Parkinson's.

'People have speculated about a link between the immune system and Parkinson's disease for some time and this study suggests that the link is real…This is the best evidence we've seen so far', said Dr Cyrus Zabetian of the University of Washington, Seattle, who co-authored the study.

'We found strong evidence that a gene within the HLA region is associated with Parkinson's disease. We don't know specifically which gene because there is a cluster of genes in that region'.

The study carried out on 2000 people with late onset Parkinson's and 1986 people without Parkinson's also confirmed the role of three other genes - SNCA (α-synuclein), MAPT (microtubule-associated protein tau) and GAK (cyclin G–associated kinase). Individuals carrying mutations in all four genes identified in the study could have up to a five-fold increased susceptibility to the disease.

Dr Kieran Breen, director of research at Parkinson's UK, said: 'Previous studies have shown that inflammation does occur in the brains of people with Parkinson's, but identifying the potential factors that may lead to the death of nerve cells has been difficult'.

'This research, combined with Parkinson's UK funded research at Oxford University into the role of inflammation, may lead to the development of new drug treatments for the condition'.

Parkinson's affects one in 500 people in the UK, causing neurodegeneration that leads to tremors and uncontrolled muscle movements.

Nature Genetics | 15 August 2010
PHG Foundation | 18 August 2010
BBC News | 16 August 2010
The Guardian | 15 August 2010


25 March 2013 - by Helen Brooks 
An experimental approach to treating Parkinson's disease may need to be reconsidered following evidence suggesting that it may make patients worse...
14 November 2011 - by Luciana Strait 
Human embryonic stem cells have been used to treat a model of Parkinson's disease, rats and monkeys, pointing to a possible new way of treating the condition....
30 August 2011 - by Victoria Kay 
UK scientists have, for the first time, generated live nerve cells from a patient with a rapidly progressing form of Parkinson's disease...
07 February 2011 - by Dr Lucy Freem 
Scientists have linked five more gene variants to the risk of developing Parkinson's disease...

26 January 2006 - by BioNews 
US researchers have found that many cases of Parkinson's disease (PD) in certain ethnic groups could be triggered by a single faulty gene. In two separate studies, the scientists discovered that some patients with an Ashkenazi Jewish or Arabic background have a mutated version of the LRRK2 gene. The findings...

Be the first to have your say.

You need to or  to add comments.

By posting a comment you agree to abide by the BioNews terms and conditions

- click here to enquire about using this story.

Published by the Progress Educational Trust


Public Conference
8 December 2017

Speakers include

Professor Azim Surani

Professor Magdalena Zernicka-Goetz

Professor Robin Lovell-Badge

Sally Cheshire

Professor Guido Pennings

Katherine Littler

Professor Allan Pacey

Dr Sue Avery

Professor Richard Anderson

Dr Elizabeth Garner

Dr Andy Greenfield

Dr Anna Smajdor

Dr Henry Malter

Vivienne Parry

Dr Helen O'Neill

Dr César Palacios-González

Philippa Taylor

Fiona Fox

Sarah Norcross

Sandy Starr


Good Fundraising Code

Become a Friend of PET HERE and give the Progress Educational Trust a regular donation