Genetic Research into Parkinson’s Disease
Famous actor Michael J. Fox is well known both for living with Parkinson’s disease as well as for spearheading the search for a cure. The Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research recently began exploring genetic mutations associated with the disease, including those common among Ashkenazic Jews.
Researchers are looking for biomarkers—substances, processes or characteristics of the body that signal risk, onset or progression of the disease—that can then aid in diagnosis and management as well as in developing new drugs. There are currently no biomarkers for Parkinson’s.
“If we can prevent Parkinson’s or diagnose it earlier, it would help so many people,” says Judy Wattenberg of Boca Raton, Florida, a participant in the Parkinson’s Progression Markers Initiative. Wattenberg, whose mother died of the disease and who watched her father struggle with his role as caregiver, tested positive for a mutation of the LRRK2 gene, the greatest-known genetic contributor to Parkinson’s disease (though that does not mean she will develop the disease).
The study is taking place at 32 clinical sites around the world, 20 of which are in the United States. A complete list of sites is available at www.michaeljfox.org.