An international team led by a National Institutes of Health researcher has found that carriers of a rare, genetic condition called Gaucher disease face a risk of developing Parkinson's disease more than five times greater than the general public. The findings were published today in the New England Journal of Medicine.
In previous studies, several genes have been linked to Parkinson's disease. However, researchers say their work conclusively shows that mutations in the gene responsible for Gaucher disease are among the most significant risk factors found to date for Parkinson's disease. The discovery was made by investigators from the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) and the National Institute on Aging (NIA), both parts of the National Institutes of Health, in collaboration with scientists from 16 research centers across four continents.
"This analysis illustrates how studying a rare but important disorder, like Gaucher disease, can provide powerful clues about more common disorders, such as Parkinson's disease," said NHGRI Scientific Director Eric Green, M.D., Ph.D. "Understanding the genetic basis of rare conditions can thus provide insights into normal cellular and biological processes, which in turn may lead to improved diagnostic and therapeutic strategies."