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Scientists Make Parkinson’s Breakthrough

Thursday December 22, 2005

19th December 2005(UK News) - British scientists have made a major breakthrough in the battle against Parkinson’s Disease, it was revealed today.

Researchers have discovered 570 abnormally acting genes that could help doctors predict and beat the crippling condition.

The boxer Muhammad Ali, the actor Michael J Fox and former Arsenal and Liverpool footballer Ray Kennedy are famous victims, but there are hundreds of thousands of sufferers in the UK and more than a million in the US.

Now scientists believe they are closing in on the genes responsible for the disease and could help doctors diagnose it earlier and provide targets for new treatments.

The research uses microarrays to analyse the brain of Parkinson’s patients. Microarrays are laboratory chips able to pick out which genes are active when different processes are occurring in the brain.

When scientists analysed brains from Parkinson’s sufferers, it was revealed that out of all 25,000 human genes, regulation of 570 was highly abnormal in Parkinson’s brains compared with non-diseased brains. The revolutionary study is the first on Parkinson’s disease where all human genes were studied.

The research published in Neurogenetics, by a team from Imperial College London and the University of Liege, Belgium, analysed 23 brains from recently deceased corpses, 15 affected by Parkinson’s and 8 control brains.

Most of the brains were provided by the UK Parkinson’s Disease Society Tissue Bank at Imperial College London.

Dr Linda Moran from Imperial College London, one of the authors of the paper, said: "This research highlights the considerable number of genes associated with the development of Parkinson’s, potentially providing new clues for how to treat this disease. Now that we can identify these genes it may be possible to develop new therapies to help the increasing numbers of Parkinson’s patients."

The research team, led by Professor Manuel Graeber, analysed two parts of the brain affected by neurodegeneration in Parkinson’s; the substantia nigra in the mid-brain, and the cerebral cortex.

They eliminated around 15,000 genes from playing any role in the development of the disease, as they were not found to be active in the substantia nigra, the part of the brain most affected by Parkinson’s.

Dawn Duke, MS, from Imperial College London, another of the authors of the paper said: "In addition to identifying those genes linked with the development of Parkinson’s, this research has also shown that many of these genes were especially active in Parkinson’s brains. By limiting the activity of these genes, we may be able to control or even stop the development of Parkinson’s."