Parkinson’s disease gene variant found in some people of African ancestry

 Credit: Image created with courtesy of Singleton lab, NIH CARD, Bethesda, MD.

A gene variant found almost exclusively in the genomes of people of African ancestry increases the risk of developing Parkinson’s disease, according to an international study of nearly 198,000 participants with this genetic background. Published in The Lancet Neurology, the study results suggest the risk may be linked to a variant in the gene encoding β-glucocerebrosidase (GBA1), a protein known to control how cells in the body recycle proteins. The study was led by scientists at the National Institutes of Health; the University College, London; and the University of Lagos, Nigeria. Although more research is needed to understand the role of environmental and other factors in these populations, the scientists found that those who carry one copy of the gene are about 1.5 times more likely to have Parkinson’s disease than those who have no copies whereas those who carry two copies are about 3.5 times more likely. Over the past few decades, researchers have found several genetic risk factors for Parkinson’s disease. Rare inherited cases of the disease have been linked to about 20 genes harboring pathogenic variants formerly known as disease-causing mutations while more than 100 regions of the human genome are associated with more common, sporadic forms of the disease. However, most of these findings are based on studies of people of European descent and very few have been conducted on people of African descent.

By National Institutes of Health

Article can be accessed on: MedicalXpress