Researchers have said that a gene associated with the immune system may play a role in developing Parkinson's disease. This is a possible advance in the search for effective treatments.
A long-term study involved a global consortium, including Johns Hopkins researchers from the Center for Inherited Disease Research who performed genome-wide association studies on more than 4,000 DNA samples - half from unrelated patients with Parkinson's and half from healthy "controls."
The team confirmed that a gene in the human leukocyte antigen (HLA) region was strongly linked with Parkinson's disease; this region contains a large number of genes related to immune system function.
The new data bolster previous studies that hinted about a role for infections, inflammation and autoimmunity in Parkinson's disease.
This genetic finding demonstrates that inflammation isn't simply a result of having the disease, but somehow is involved as a player in its origin.
"This is an exciting finding from a genome-wide association study (GWAS) which is completely hypothesis-independent and bias-free, based solely on looking at the whole genome and finding out what genes might be related to Parkinson's," says Kimberly Doheny, assistant professor, McKusick-Nathans Institute of Genetic Medicine, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine; assistant director of the Center for Inherited Disease Research (CIDR); and director of the CIDR Genotyping Lab, Johns Hopkins University.
The study has been published August 17 in Nature Genetics.