FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Every year, approximately 60,000 Americans are diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, a disorder of the central nervous system that affects movement and causes tremors.
Now a research effort aimed at finding genetic links to the disease is underway.
Rick Friedland, who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease 13 years ago, decided to participate.
“No one in my family has Parkinson’s. I had no idea really what Parkinson’s was all about,” Friedland said.
Parkinson’s is linked to a gradual drop in dopamine, which is caused by nerve cell damage in the brain.
“Initially, the body is able to compensate for it. Eventually the amount of deficit is such that compensation is no longer possible, ergo the disease shows up,” said Dr. Carlos Singer, a neurology professor at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine and Director of the Parkinson’s Foundation of Excellence.
Singer and his team at the Parkinson’s Foundation Center of Excellence are part of a nationwide investigation into causes of the disease.
Researchers are working to uncover genetic factors in the study called PD-GENEration.
“As the genetic information multiplies we’re discovering that not necessarily purely one gene involved, but there may actually be multiple genes, each one may add up to the other and will present kind of a risk value for us to know how likely a person would develop Parkinson’s disease,” Singer said.
Friedland hopes others affected by the disease will participate in this and other research efforts.
“There’s no current cure for Parkinson’s disease or treatments, but looking for a cure through genetics is really a big opportunity for all Parkinson’s patients,” Friedland said.
The goal is to enroll 15,000 people in the study, which is entering phase two of clinical research.