Mutations in the gene LRRK2 have been linked to about three percent of Parkinson’s disease cases. Researchers have now found evidence that the activity of LRRK2 protein might be affected in many more patients with Parkinson’s disease, even when the LRRK2 gene itself is not mutated. The study was published in Science Translational Medicineand was supported in part by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), a part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
“This is a striking finding that shows how normal LRRK2 may contribute to the development of Parkinson’s disease,” said Beth-Anne Sieber, Ph.D., program director at NINDS. “This study also identifies LRRK2 as an integral protein in the neurobiological pathways affected by the disease.”
More than 10 years ago, researchers linked mutations in the LRRK2 gene with an increased risk for developing Parkinson’s disease. Those mutations produce a version of LRRK2 protein that behaves abnormally and is much more active than it would be normally.
Parkinson’s disease is commonly thought of as a movement disorder, but after years of living with the disease, approximately 25 percent of patients also experience deficits in cognition that impair function. A newly developed research tool may help predict a patient’s risk for developing dementia and could enable clinical trials aimed at finding treatments to prevent the cognitive effects of the disease. The research was published in Lancet Neurology and was partially funded by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), part of the National Institutes of Health.
“This study includes both genetic and clinical assessments from multiple groups of patients, and it represents a significant step forward in our ability to effectively model one of the most troublesome non-motor aspects of Parkinson’s disease,” said Margaret Sutherland, Ph.D., program director at the NINDS.