What’s more, over the past several years researchers have found evidence a person’s genetic make-up plays a larger role in Parkinson's disease than previously realized. And scientists are working to identify genes associated with the development of Parkinson’s disease.
When is Parkinson's disease hereditary?
So far, researchers have found some rare instances where Parkinson's disease appears to be caused by a single genetic mutation that is passed from generation to generation, resulting in Parkinson's disease seeming to “run” in an extended family.
One genetic pattern identified with familial Parkinson’s disease is autosomal dominant — meaning it takes only one altered copy of a specific gene (LRRK2 and SNCA are examples of these identified genes) in a person to cause Parkinson’s disease. However, this is a rare type of PD, believed to cause only one to two percent of Parkinson’s cases, according to the Parkinson’s Foundation. Another genetic variation involving the presence of two altered copies of certain genes (PARK7, PINK1, PRKN) is now known to cause PD is some people, too.
Zeroing in on Parkinson’s disease and heredity
National Institute of Aging investigator Andrew Singleton, PhD, headed a research team of American and European scientists who studied data from more than 33,000 volunteers to search for genetic variations associated with developing Parkinson’s disease. They found five new genetic regions linked to Parkinson’s, and the researchers also confirmed six previously identified genetic variations that appear to raise the risk for PD.
"Up until just 10 or 15 years ago, the field did not think genetics played much of a role in the development of Parkinson's disease," Singleton explained. "This work not only increases our understanding of how genes are involved in the disease process, but with more research, may one day result in the development of better diagnostics and therapeutic interventions for this debilitating disease."
Of course, not everyone who has these genetic variations develops Parkinson’s disease — in fact, most don’t. So scientists are looking into how genetic factors plus exposure to one or more environmental factors, such as pesticides or other neurotoxins, might be what triggers many cases of Parkinson’s disease, according to the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research.
March 16, 2020
Janet O’Dell, RN