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Researchers discover genetic link between immune system, Parkinson's disease
Date:8/15/2010

A team of researchers has discovered new evidence that Parkinson's disease may have an infectious or autoimmune origin. "Common genetic variation in the HLA region is associated with late-onset sporadic Parkinson's disease" appears online in Nature Genetics.

The study was conducted by the NeuroGenetics Research Consortium, an international team of researchers led by Haydeh Payami, research scientist at the New York State Department of Health Wadsworth Center. The clinical directors for the study were Dr. Cyrus Zabetian, associate professor of neurology at the University of Washington and VA Puget Sound Health Care System, Stewart Factor at Emory University and John Nutt at Oregon Health and Sciences University.

The research team studied more than 2,000 Parkinson's disease patients and 2,000 healthy volunteers from clinics in Oregon, Washington, New York and Georgia, assessing clinical, genetic and environmental factors that might contribute to the development and progression of Parkinson's disease and its complications. Some of the research subjects were tracked for nearly two decades.

"Over the years, there have been subtle hints that immune function might be linked to Parkinson's disease" said Zabetian. "But now we have much more convincing evidence of this and a better idea of which parts of the immune system might be involved."

In the study, researchers detected a new association with the HLA (human leukocyte antigen) region, which contains a large number of genes related to immune system function in humans. With the new findings, and link to HLA, researchers will now be encouraged to take a fresh look at the possible role of infections, inflammation and autoimmunity in Parkinson's disease.

HLA genes are essential for recognizing foreign invaders from the body's own tissues. Similarly, HLA molecules are supposed to recognize a body's own tissue as itself and prevent immune reactions against them.
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Contact: Mary Guiden
mguiden@uw.edu
206-616-3192
University of Washington
Source:Eurekalert

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