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

But the system doesn't always work perfectly. HLA genes are highly variable from individual to individual. Certain variants of the genes are associated with increased risk or protection against infectious disease, while other variants can induce autoimmune disorders in which the immune system attacks the body's own tissues. Multiple sclerosis, a neurological disease caused by autoimmunity, is also associated with HLA-DR. The genetic variant that is associated with Parkinson's disease is in the same region as the one associated with multiple sclerosis.

People who take non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen) have a reduced risk of developing Parkinson's disease, which also supports an immune-related mechanism. The protective effect of NSAIDs is not the same for everyone, likely because of genetic differences, and NSAIDs can have side effects. Pursuing the connection between Parkinson's disease and inflammation, especially in the context of variable genetic makeup, may lead to better, more selective drugs for treating Parkinson's disease.

Consortium leaders recognize the study would not have been possible without the precious help from volunteer patients. "This type of research could not be done if it weren't for the willing and dedicated individuals who volunteer as research subjects," said Payami, who acknowledged that some study subjects participated for nearly two decades.

What's next for the team? "Our results also pointed to several other genes that might play a role in developing Parkinson's disease, and these findings need to be confirmed, so we have a lot of work ahead of us" said Zabetian. He and others in the consortium will now mine the data even more for gene-environment interactions, with a goal of finding environmental triggers and protectors to develop genetically-personalized therapeutics for treatment and prevention of Parkinson's disease.


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Contact: Mary Guiden
mguiden@uw.edu
206-616-3192
University of Washington
Source:Eurekalert

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