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Six New Parkinson's Genetic Risk Factors Discovered

Update Date: Jul 28, 2014 12:53 PM EDT

With the help of data obtained from 18,000 patients, researchers have discovered six new genetic risk factors involved in Parkinson's, according to a new study.

"Unraveling the genetic underpinnings of Parkinson's is vital to understanding the multiple mechanisms involved in this complex disease, and hopefully, may one day lead to effective therapies," Andrew Singleton, Ph.D., a scientist at the NIH's National Institute on Aging (NIA) and senior author of the study, said in the press release. 

Researches collected and combined data from existing genome-wide association studies that allows scientists to find common variants including subtle differences in the genetic codes of large group of individuals. 

The findings of the study suggest that the more variants a person has, the greater the risk, as high as three times, for developing the disorder in some cases. 

"The study brought together a large international group of investigators from both public and private institutions who were interested in sharing data to accelerate the discovery of genetic risk factors for Parkinson's disease," said Margaret Sutherland, Ph.D., a program director at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), part of NIH. "The advantage of this collaborative approach is highlighted in the identification of pathways and gene networks that may significantly increase our understanding of Parkinson's disease."

Parkinson's disease is a degenerative disorder that affects millions of people worldwide. It causes movement problems including trembling of the hands, arms, legs, and stiffness of limbs and trunk. 

"The replication phase of the study demonstrates the utility of the NeuroX chip for unlocking the secrets of neurodegenerative disorders," added Dr. Sutherland. "The power of these high tech, data-driven genomic methods allows scientists to find the needle in the haystack that may ultimately lead to new treatments."

The study has been reported in Nature Genetics and was partially funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). 

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