Environmental poisons may cause or contribute to some cases of Parkinson’s disease (PD). Mitochondrial impairment is seen in all forms of PD. Some environmental exposures, such as pesticides, can damage mitochondria. Currently, it is very difficult to estimate the amount of toxins that people with PD may have been exposed to, or to estimate the amount of damage these toxins may have caused. An accurate test is needed.
We will test the hypothesis that damage to mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) is greater in people who were exposed to certain pesticides and explore whether that damage is greater in people with PD.
This project builds on our prior work in a group of professional pesticide applicators and their spouses with existing DNA samples, half of whom have PD and half of whom do not. We have detailed information about their pesticide exposures and other environmental factors. We will measure the amount of damage to participants’ mtDNA and test whether this damage is greater in persons with PD and in those who were previously exposed to pesticides.
Impact on Diagnosis/Treatment of Parkinson’s disease:
This work will identify which pesticides and other environmental factors may damage mtDNA. It will investigate mtDNA damage as a marker of disease severity and provide important preliminary data for future studies of mtDNA as a marker of progression.
Next Steps for Development:
Our results could immediately help efforts to prevent PD by identifying mitochondrial poisons in the environment. If successful, future studies will investigate mtDNA as a biomarker of disease progression in at-risk cohorts.