Monthly Archives: February 2017

The Ashkenazi Jewish Genetic Connection To Parkinson’s Disease

By The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s ResearchDo you know anyone who has Parkinson’s disease (PD)? It’s likely – the neurodegenerative disease affects one in 100 people over the age of 60, and more than 5 million people worldwide. Today, medicines exist to alleviate motor symptoms of the disease, but currently there are no treatments that can slow or stop its progression.

Researchers believe Parkinson’s results from a combination of both genetic and environmental factors, and, in recent years, scientists have discovered a number of genetic mutations associated with Parkinson’s. In about one percent of PD cases, the disease can be linked to a mutation in a gene called LRRK2.

While that may sound like a small number, the percentage is much higher in certain populations. In the Ashkenazi Jewish population, the mutation is responsible for 15 to 20 percent of PD cases. It is important to note that not everyone with a LRRK2 mutation will go on to develop Parkinson’s. But researchers believe that learning more about the genetics of Parkinson’s by studying those with and without the disease can help drive progress toward new treatments for everyone with PD.

A global study called the Parkinson’s Progression Markers Initiative (PPMI) launched efforts earlier this year to learn more about the genetics of PD. Families that carry a LRRK2 mutation have a vital role to play in this study, and there’s an easy way to be involved. The study is seeking volunteers to complete a brief survey to determine if they may be eligible to receive genetic counseling and testing of the LRRK2 gene at no cost. 

Take the survey to see if you qualify

Gene mutation and Parkinson’s

By and large, Parkinson’s has not been considered to be a genetic disease. The majority of cases are called idiopathic, which simply means that we don’t know what caused the disease. In fact, only about 10 percent of PD cases have been linked to a genetic cause. Mutations in the LRRK2 gene are the most common cause of PD in this relatively small group, representing one to two percent of total Parkinson’s cases.

However, for people of certain ethnic backgrounds — Ashkenazi Jewish, North African Arab Berbers and Basque — mutations in LRRK2 account for a much greater number of PD cases than in the general population. While estimates vary, it is believed that changes in LRRK2 (predominantly the mutation scientists know as G2019S) account for 15 to 20 percent of cases in Ashkenazi Jews and about 40 percent of cases in North African Arab Berbers. Other genetic changes in LRRK2 that increase the risk of Parkinson’s disease have been found in additional populations, such as in Asians of Chinese descent. It remains an active area of research to find all the genetic changes in LRRK2 that may lead to Parkinson’s disease.


do you want to participate in a sty study?

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Is It Parkinson’s Disease? Blood Test Might Tell

Measuring a particular blood protein might help doctors easily distinguish Parkinson’s disease from some similar disorders, a new study suggests.
The potential blood test is “not ready for prime time,” Parkinson’s disease experts said. But, it marks progress in the quest for an objective way to diagnose Parkinson’s and similar conditions known as atypical parkinsonian disorders, they noted.
Read more

Long-term outlook

Life expectancy for people with Parkinson’s who receive proper treatment is often about the same as for the general population. Early detection is the key to reducing complications that can shorten your life. If you suspect that you or a loved one may have Parkinson’s disease, see your doctor right away.