Editorís Note: This is a guest blog from Scott Hadley, content editor for 23andMe, on the impact of members of its Parkinsonís Research Community.
Members of the 23andMe Parkinsonís Research Community continues to fuel insights into the disease, with researchers now reporting preliminary findings that motor symptoms of women with Parkinson's disease (PD) may be less severe compared to men with the disease. However, early findings show that women with PD may experience more severe non-motor symptoms.
These studies were made possible by the participation of the now more than 10,000 people in 23andMeís Parkinsonís Research Community, the worldís largest cohort of genotyped Parkinsonís patients. Our work has also received vital assistance from 23andMeís partnerships with organizations like The Michael J. Fox Foundation, The Parkinsonís Institute, and the Cleveland Clinic.
In our recent study, 23andMeís researchers studied the symptoms of thousands of Parkinsonís patients of European descent. We found differences in symptom severity between different groups:
- Patients with a mutation in the LRRK2 gene had less severe motor symptoms.
- Patients with a higher body mass index (BMI) experienced more severe motor and non-motor symptoms.
- Women had less severe motor symptoms but more severe non-motor symptoms.
We also found factors that were associated with earlier age of Parkinsonís onset, which may be of potential relevance to clinicians deciding when to screen for the disease. Patients who carried a GBA gene mutation, patients not of Ashkenazi Jewish descent and patients with higher BMIs tended to have earlier ages of onset.
Our researchers also confirmed previous studies that showed that both smoking and caffeine consumption were associated with lower risk for Parkinsonís. [Although we do not suggest anyone take up smoking.]
These findings will be published later this year. Such information on onset and symptomology of different populations could be of benefit to both patients and their doctors to give an idea of what to expect and in building a treatment plan.
We still have much to learn about this disease: the relationship between genes and environment in causing Parkinsonís, how the disease develops differently in different people, and how genetics may influence how patients respond differently to different treatments. Participants in the 23andMe Parkinsonís Research Community continue to help researchers make strides toward greater understanding and development of new treatments for Parkinsonís disease.
Learn more about how you can become part of the genetics revolution under way in Parkinsonís.