-- Robert Preidt
WEDNESDAY, Nov. 27, 2013 (HealthDay News) -- Researchers have
identified a genetic mutation that increases the risk of
Parkinson's disease linked to pesticides.
The gene mutation causes nerve cells that produce a substance
called "dopamine" to lose their protection from pesticide damage.
The body uses dopamine to send messages to the part of the brain
that controls movement and coordination.
Parkinson's disease -- which causes movement problems such as
stiffness, tremors and slurred speech -- occurs when nerve cells in
the brain don't produce enough dopamine.
The study is the first "to show that a genetic mutation combined
with exposure to pesticides creates a 'double-hit' scenario," by
disabling specific pathways, which then leads to nerve-cell death,
study senior author Dr. Stuart Lipton, professor and director of
Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute's Center for
Neuroscience, Aging, and Stem Cell Research, said in an institute
Prior to this research, the suspected link between pesticides
and Parkinson's disease was based mainly on animal research and
studies that found an increased risk of Parkinson's disease among
farmers, rural populations and others exposed to agricultural
The study was published online Nov. 27 in the journal
While these findings clearly show the relationship between a
gene mutation, the environment, and the damage done to
dopamine-producing nerve cells, other mutations and pathways could
be important influences as well, the researchers noted.
The investigators plan further research to learn more about how
genes and environmental factors interact to contribute to
Parkinson's and other neurodegenerative diseases such as
Alzheimer's and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig's
"In the future, we anticipate using the knowledge of mutations that predispose an individual to these diseases in order to predict who should avoid a particular environmental exposure. Moreover, we will be able to screen for patients who may benefit from a specific therapy that can prevent, treat or possibly cure these diseases," Lipton said.
The U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
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