Your DNA May Cut Parkinson's Risk by 20 Percent

LRRK2 gene impacts risk of Parkinson's disease

(RxWiki News) Most often, patients consider having a genetic risk for a disease means that having a gene increases the likelihood of developing a particular medical condition. That's not the case with a new Parkinson's gene.

A newly discovered gene variant reduces the risk of Parkinson's disease by 20 percent. However some variants of the same gene double the risk of Parkinson's, particularly in Caucasians and Asians.

"Ask your doctor about your risk for Parkinson's disease."

Owen Ross, lead investigator of the study and a neuroscientist at the Mayo Clinic Florida, said that the idea that Parkinson's disease happens mostly in a random sporadic fashion is changing. He said that his study, one of the largest to date in the study of the genetics of Parkinson's disease, found that a single gene called LRRK2 is comprised of both rare and common variants that can alter susceptibility to the neurodegenerative disease.

Parkinson's is believed to be influenced by multiple genetic risks that act together to cause the disease, and the recent finding acts as evidence to back that assertion. Such discoveries may aid in the development of targeted therapies.

During the course of the three-year genetic study, investigators from 15 countries collected 15,540 genetic samples. Of those, 8,611 were from Parkinson's patients. Researchers then calculated the risk of each LRRK2 variant.

Investigators worked to review each possible variant in the part of the gene that helps determine a person's risk and the amount of that risk. It was found that the common and rare variants contributed to late-onset sporadic Parkinson's in both a way that increased risk, but also a protective manner. Many additional genes are believed to work with LRRK2 in increasing a person's risk of Parkinson's.

The research builds upon a 2004 Mayo Clinic discovery that the LRRK2 gene was responsible for causing a form of inherited Parkinson's, later discovered to be the most common genetic cause of familial Parkinson's. Seven variants of the gene have been discovered so far.

The research was published in Lancet Neurology.

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Review Date: 
September 2, 2011