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Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, Dementia & Mental Health

Six New Genetic Risks Found for Parkinson’s Disease that Targets Seniors

Study shows power of combining big data analysis with cutting-edge genomic techniques

July 28, 2014 - Using data from over 18,000 patients, scientists have identified more than two dozen genetic risk factors involved in Parkinson's disease, including six that had not been previously reported. The biggest risk factor long established for PD is age: it usually attacks people at about age 60 and the risk factor continues to increase with age.

The study, published in Nature Genetics, was partially funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and led by scientists working in NIH laboratories.

Although the average age of onset is 60, about 5 to 10 percent of people with Parkinson's have "early-onset" disease which begins before the age of 50. Early-onset forms of Parkinson's are often inherited, though not always, and some have been linked to specific gene mutations. PD is twice as likely to strike men as it is women. About 60,000 Americans are diagnosed with Parkinson's disease each year.

"Unraveling the genetic underpinnings of Parkinson's is vital to understanding the multiple mechanisms involved in this complex disease, and hopefully, may one day lead to effective therapies," said Andrew Singleton, Ph.D., a scientist at the NIH's National Institute on Aging (NIA) and senior author of the study.

Dr. Singleton and his colleagues collected and combined data from existing genome-wide association studies (GWAS), which allow scientists to find common variants, or subtle differences, in the genetic codes of large groups of individuals. The combined data included approximately 13,708 Parkinson's disease cases and 95,282 controls, all of European ancestry.

Learn more about Parkinson's Disease - see information and links at bottom of news report.

 

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Exercise for Seniors Becoming New Frontier in  Battle Against Cognitive Decline

Wake Forest study to show whether high- or low-intensity exercising, or both, can help people with early cognition problems

By Les Gura, Wake Forest Baptist HealthWire

March 19, 2014 - Marcus Dobson, 60, first recognized the cognitive decline brought on by Parkinson's disease when he realized he no longer wanted to play with his grandchildren or even be in the same room with them.

Read the latest news on Alzheimer's, Dementia & Mental Health

 

The investigators identified potential genetic risk variants, which increase the chances that a person may develop Parkinson's disease. Their results suggested that the more variants a person has, the greater the risk, up to three times higher, for developing the disorder in some cases.

"The study brought together a large international group of investigators from both public and private institutions who were interested in sharing data to accelerate the discovery of genetic risk factors for Parkinson's disease," said Margaret Sutherland, Ph.D., a program director at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), part of NIH.

"The advantage of this collaborative approach is highlighted in the identification of pathways and gene networks that may significantly increase our understanding of Parkinson's disease."

To obtain the data, the researchers collaborated with multiple public and private organizations, including the U.S. Department of Defense, the Michael J. Fox Foundation, 23andMe and many international investigators.

Affecting millions of people worldwide, Parkinson's disease is a degenerative disorder that causes movement problems, including trembling of the hands, arms, or legs, stiffness of limbs and trunk, slowed movements and problems with posture.

Over time, patients may have difficulty walking, talking, or completing other simple tasks. Although nine genes have been shown to cause rare forms of Parkinson's disease, scientists continue to search for genetic risk factors to provide a complete genetic picture of the disorder.

The researchers confirmed the results in another sample of subjects, including 5,353 patients and 5,551 controls. By comparing the genetic regions to sequences on a state-of-the-art gene chip called NeuroX, the researchers confirmed that 24 variants represent genetic risk factors for Parkinson's disease, including six variants that had not been previously identified. The NeuroX gene chip contains the codes of approximately 24,000 common genetic variants thought to be associated with a broad spectrum of neurodegenerative disorders.

"The replication phase of the study demonstrates the utility of the NeuroX chip for unlocking the secrets of neurodegenerative disorders," said Dr. Sutherland. "The power of these high tech, data-driven genomic methods allows scientists to find the needle in the haystack that may ultimately lead to new treatments."

Some of the newly identified genetic risk factors are thought to be involved with Gaucher's disease, regulating inflammation and the nerve cell chemical messenger dopamine as well as alpha-synuclein, a protein that has been shown to accumulate in the brains of some cases of Parkinson's disease. Further research is needed to determine the roles of the variants identified in this study.


About Parkinson’s Disease at MedlinePlus

Parkinson's disease (PD) is a type of movement disorder. It happens when nerve cells in the brain don't produce enough of a brain chemical called dopamine. Sometimes it is genetic, but most cases do not seem to run in families. Exposure to chemicals in the environment might play a role.

Symptoms begin gradually, often on one side of the body. Later they affect both sides. They include

   • Trembling of hands, arms, legs, jaw and face

   • Stiffness of the arms, legs and trunk

   • Slowness of movement

   • Poor balance and coordination

As symptoms get worse, people with the disease may have trouble walking, talking, or doing simple tasks. They may also have problems such as depression, sleep problems, or trouble chewing, swallowing, or speaking.

There is no lab test for PD, so it can be difficult to diagnose. Doctors use a medical history and a neurological examination to diagnose it.

PD usually begins around age 60, but it can start earlier. It is more common in men than in women. There is no cure for PD. A variety of medicines sometimes help symptoms dramatically. Surgery and deep brain stimulation (DBS) can help severe cases. With DBS, electrodes are surgically implanted in the brain. They send electrical pulses to stimulate the parts of the brain that control movement.

Movement Disorders

Imagine if parts of your body moved when you didn't want them to. If you have a movement disorder, you experience these kinds of impaired movement. Dyskinesia is abnormal uncontrolled movement and is a common symptom of many movement disorders. Tremors are a type of dyskinesia.

Nerve diseases cause many movement disorders, such as Parkinson's disease. Other causes include injuries, autoimmune diseases, infections and certain medicines. Many movement disorders are inherited, which means they run in families.

>> NIH: National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke

>> NIHSeniorHealth Parkinson's Disease

>> About neurological disorders and the latest neuroscience research also at http://www.grc.nia.nih.gov/

Notes:

This work was supported by NIA Intramural Research Program and grants from the NINDS, the NIA and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences NIEHS.

NINDS is the nation's leading funder of research on the brain and nervous system. The mission of NINDS is to seek fundamental knowledge about the brain and nervous system and to use that knowledge to reduce the burden of neurological disease.

The NIA leads the federal government effort conducting and supporting research on aging and the health and well-being of older people. It provides information on age-related cognitive change and neurodegenerative disease specifically at its Alzheimer's Disease Education and Referral (ADEAR) Center at http://www.nia.nih.gov/Alzheimers. Information on health and on aging generally can be found at http://www.nia.nih.gov.

About the National Institutes of Health (NIH): NIH, the nation's medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit http://www.nih.gov.

Additional support was provided by the NIH, Department of Defense, the Michael J Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research, American Parkinson Disease Association, Barnes Jewish Hospital Foundation, Hersenstichting Nederland, the Prinses Beatrix Fonds, the German Federal Ministry of Education, Science, Research and Technology, the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research, the State of Bavaria, the Initiative and Networking Fund of the Helmholtz Association, the French National Agency of Research, France-Parkinson Association, "Investissements d'avenir", Assistance Publique-Hôpitaux de Paris, the Landspitali University Hospital Research Fund, Icelandic Research Council, European Commission, University of Helsinki, Helsinki University Central Hospital, University of Eastern Finland, the Medical Research Council and Wellcome Trust, National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Biomedical Research Centre, Parkinson's UK, Coriell Cell Repositories, the King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Centre, National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Biomedical Research Centre, Cure Alzheimer's Fund (CAF), Prize4Life, the National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Depression, EMD Serono, Fidelity Biosciences Research Initiative, the Parkinson's disease foundation, University of Thessaly,the Hellenic Secretariat of Research and Technology, GlaxoSmithKline Greece, the Bumpus foundation, the Internationaal Parkinson Fonds, Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research, Netherlands Organization for Health Research and Development, Parkinson's UK.

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