ASA Monitor December 2023, Vol. 87, 18.
Gene variant in people with African ancestry associated with greater risks for Parkinson’s
An NIH-funded international study recently discovered that the gene GBA1, found mostly in people of African ancestry, increases the risk of developing Parkinson’s disease. GBA1 provides instructions for building enzymes inside the lysosomes that help the body recycle proteins. Researchers found people carrying one copy of the gene are 1.5 times more likely to develop Parkinson’s, and those carrying two copies are 3.5 times more likely. While there are roughly 120 other genes that are associated with increased risk for the disease, most genes were previously discovered in studies focusing on people of European descent. Researchers in this study scoured the genomes of nearly 200,000 people, of which only 1,488 people had Parkinson’s. They combined this dataset with genetic data from over 195,000 people of African American or Afro Caribbean descent. After discovering the association between the GBA1 variant and Parkinson’s disease, researchers found through previous studies that this variant rarely appears in people of European or Asian descent. It is not currently understood how the GBA1 variant affects enzyme activity or production. With the discovery of the association between GBA1 and Parkinson’s, researchers aim to improve methods of diagnosis and identify potential treatment options.