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The Immune System and Parkinson's Disease

Researchers have discovered a link between Parkinson's disease and common variants in immune system genes.

Researchers led by Dr. Haydeh Payami, scientists, Health Wadsworth Center, and professor, School of Public Health, New York State Department of Health, have discovered a link between Parkinson’s disease and common variants in immune system genes.

The discovery, made while conduction a genome-wide association study (GWAS), confirms “subtle hints” that immune function and Parkinson’s are linked, which scientists have seen for years, according to Dr Cyrus Zabetian, associate professor of neurology, University of Washington and VA Puget Sound Health Care System, Stewart Factor at Emory University, adding that there is now “much more convincing evidence of this and a better idea of which parts of the immune system might be involved."

For the study, Payami and colleagues scanned the genomes of 2,000 healthy volunteers and 2,000 patients with Parkinson’s, taking clinical and environmental factors into account.

On top of replicating links already seen with SNCA, MAP, and GAK, the team detected new links with common variants in the human leukocyte antigen (HLA) region—home to many immune system genes that recognize and differentiate foreign agents—that were strong in both sporadic and late-onset Parkinson’s and “uniform across all genetic and environmental risk strata.”

View the research article published yesterday in Nature Genetics.

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