Maina wa Njuguna
A gene variant that causes Parkinson’s disease has been discovered almost exclusively in people of African decent.
Parkinson’s disease is a disorder of the central nervous system that affects movement, often including tremors.
Research has for a long time been limited to White populations. Lately the studies have been diversified and through the Genetics Global Parkinson’s Genetics Program, the discovery of this genetic variant known as GBA1 will lay the foundation to develop new treatments or therapies.
Over 200,000 samples of people from Nigeria and US residents of African ancestry found that 1 copy of the specific gene variant increases the risk of the disease by 50%, and if 2 genes variants are found, that increases the risk for Parkinson’s disease by 400%.
• Parkinson’s disease is the second most common age-related neurodegenerative disorder after Alzheimer’s disease. An estimated seven to 10 million people worldwide have Parkinson’s disease.
• Men are 1.5 times more likely to have Parkinson’s than women.
• Parkinson’s disease is found at much higher rates in White populations than Black populations. There are concerns that this could be as a result of under representation in the studies.
Dr. Ekemini Riley, managing director of Aligning Science Across Parkinson’s lauded the diversification of research. This finding she pointed out is significant because it lays the foundation of developing treatments or therapies to target the GBA1 variant with the hope to prevent the disease.
For more information on Parkinson’s disease or Dr. Riley’s work, check out the website link.