A hunt throughout the human genome for variants associated with common, late-onset Parkinson’s disease has revealed a new genetic link that implicates the immune system and offers new targets for drug development.
The 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, published August 17 in Nature Genetics, 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…