The world’s largest genetic study in Parkinson’s disease (PD) was just published in Nature Genetics (for the research paper see here).
In this study we have compared the genetics of about 18,000 PD cases with 100,000 healthy controls.
The results show us that 6 new genes that we did not know where involved in PD actually play a role in the common form of the disease. As with nearly all basic science findings, these results do not have an immediate application for therapeutics, but they provide us with valuable information: from genes, we can get to protein function, then to cellular pathways and from there to improved therapeutics.
Although individually the genes identified using this approach have a small impact in disease, the combination of all their effects leads to an overall risk for disease of ~3.3 (they increase a person’s risk for PD by about 3-fold when compared with people not carrying these risk alleles).
We now know that a total of 28 genes plays a role in common PD. This is a striking results given that PD was, for a very long time and up until rather recently, considered the archetypal non-genetic disease.
These are incredibly exciting findings and we are confident they will be very important in improving our understanding of disease, and eventually in allowing us to create therapies that slow or halt disease progression.