There are three points to be made about genetics and Parkinson’s. The first is that very few cases of Parkinson’s — probably less than five percent — are directly determined by genes. The second is that although genetic factors in Parkinson’s do not cause the disease in most cases, they do shine a powerful spotlight on the pathways that lead to Parkinson’s. And the third is that no area of science has been more astonishingly productive in the modern history of Parkinson’s science than the study of genetics.
Just think: a decade and a half ago, scientists did not know of a single gene linked to Parkinson’s. Today, we have more than twenty!
It is fitting that we lead off this issue of News & Review with a fascinating and comprehensive article by one of the most accomplished leaders in this area of science, Matthew Farrer, Ph.D. We also thought Matt’s terrific overview would provide a good opportunity for us to tell our readers about the contributions PDF has made — with your support — to this important area of Parkinson’s science.
For many years, PDF has helped support studies of the basic science and clinical genetics of Parkinson’s through its grants to scientific teams and individual investigators, such as Christine Klein, M.D., whose work is featured here.
Early in 2012, PDF is initiating a multi-million multi-year interdisciplinary Parkinson’s clinical genetics research program. We will bring together several of the intellectual powerhouses in the New York metropolitan area to create a consortium — named for Lucien Côté, M.D., a beloved Parkinson’s doctor — for Parkinson’s genetics. Our aim — similar to that expressed by Dr. Klein — is to learn as much as we can about genetics and Parkinson’s disease and apply those lessons to improving treatment for those living with the disease today. One of our first projects will be to fund the work of some of the brightest young investigators in this field. (Please note that since our newsletter publication, this project has since launched - learn more here).
We hope you will find these articles of interest. We also invite you this time of year to contact us to order a free seasonal publication, our annual Parkinson’s Awareness Toolkit, which will help you prepare your own activities during Parkinson’s Awareness Month in April 2012.
On behalf of my staff colleagues, Board leaders and scientific collaborators at PDF, may I wish all of our readers a joyful and healthy holiday season and a great start to 2012.
Robin Anthony Elliott