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Local researchers discover mutated gene which increases risk of Parkinson’s

Thursday November 30, 2006

23 November 2006 (Singapore News) - Singapore researchers have discovered a mutated gene which increases the risk of Parkinson’s Disease by two-fold among the Chinese.

The study was conducted by researchers from the National Neuroscience Institute, Singapore General Hospital and Genome Institute of Singapore.

The study shows that the abnormal gene is even present in some healthy individuals.

Dr Tan Eng King, Senior Consultant Neurologist, National Neuroscience Institute, said, "Hence, an individual carrying this genetic abnormality has an increased risk of developing the disease. Currently there’s no specific cure for Parkinson’s Disease; however, this exciting discovery will allow scientists and researchers to better understand how this mutation cause the brain cells to die and also allow them, hopefully, to develop drugs that could prevent these brain cells from dying.

"So in a way, there’s potential for neuro-protective drugs to be developed in the future that could hopefully prevent or slow down the progression of the disease."

As part of the study, blood samples were collected from 1,000 people over five years.

They were aged between 21 and 90 years old.

All of them were Chinese Singaporeans.

But half of them have Parkinson’s, while the other half have no history of the disease at all.

Researchers say the study has generated much interest among those in the medical community.

Dr J J Liu, Senior Research Scientist, Genome Institute of Singapore, said, "In the past, most of the research activities are focused on the Western population and our results suggest that in the future, we should have more activities in our own population to try and identify more population-specific risk factors for Parkinson’s Disease."

Despite the findings, doctors say Singaporeans should not be alarmed, because the prevalence of Parkinson’s is only 3 per 1,000 for Singaporeans aged 50 and above.

Some 5,000 Singaporeans suffer from Parkinson’s Disease. - CNA/ms