In recent years, Parkinson's research has advanced to the point that halting the progression of Parkinson's disease (PD), restoring lost function, and even preventing the disease are all considered realistic goals. While the ultimate goal of preventing Parkinson's disease may take years to achieve, researchers are making great progress in understanding and treating Parkinson's disease.
One of the most exciting areas of Parkinson's research is genetics. Studying the genes responsible for inherited cases can help researchers understand both inherited and sporadic cases of the disease. Identifying gene defects can also help researchers understand how PD occurs, develop animal models that accurately mimic the neuronal death in human PD, identify new drug targets, and improve diagnosis.
Several genes have been definitively linked to PD in some people. Researchers also have identified a number of other genes that may play a role and are working to confirm these findings. In addition, several chromosomal regions have been linked to PD in some families. Researchers hope to identify the genes located in these chromosomal regions and to determine which of them may play roles in Parkinson's.
Researchers funded by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) are gathering information and DNA samples from hundreds of families with PD and are conducting large-scale gene expression studies to identify genes that are abnormally active or inactive in PD. They also are comparing gene activity in PD with gene activity in similar diseases such as progressive supranuclear palsy.