Should we start being genetically tested for Parkinson’s disease (PD)? According to research just published in the December issue of the "journal Movement Disorders" this might be a possibility in the future if you belong to a family affected by G2019S, a genetic mutation responsible for some PD cases.
Parkinson disease results from the death or loss of function of the nervous cells (neurons) in a brain area called substancia nigra, which is involved in the regulation of movement. Neurons within this region produce dopamine, a neurotransmitter that acts as messenger between the substancia nigra (the control centre) and other neurons around the body, leading to a correct regulation of the body movements. If the substancia nigra degenerates, like it happens in PD, dopamine is no longer properly produced and the individual starts presenting the typical symptoms of Parkinson’s disease such as slowed movements, tremors, loss of movement control and rigidity.
Although there is still no cure, treatments, which increase the brain’s dopamine levels, are relatively effective. Unfortunately, as disease progresses, treatment becomes less and less efficient and the patient’s full deterioration is inevitable. The disease affects about 1% of the world population with, only in the US, half a million people affected and about 50,000 new cases are reported every year, a number predicted to increase as the average age of the populations also increases.
Catarina Amorim | alfa
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