Study: Gene Variants Could Predict Rate of Motor Decline in Parkinson’s

Researches at UCLA have uncovered two variants of a gene associated with Parkinson’s disease that could predict the progression of motor decline in people with Parkinson’s who possess the variants.

"This is a relatively small study, with 233 patients, but the effects we're seeing are actually quite large," said Dr. Beate Ritz, vice chair of the Department of Epidemiology at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health and the study's primary investigator.

Patients newly diagnosed with Parkinson’s were enrolled in the study that examined variants REP1 263bp promoter and rs356165 of the gene SNCA, a well-known risk factor for Parkinson's associated with greater disease severity in familial cases. Study participants were followed for 5.1 years on average.

The study revealed that people with the Rep1 263bp variant had a four-fold higher risk of faster motor decline and those with both variants had an even stronger trend in progression toward motor decline.

Currently, physicians can't predict how rapidly motor function will decline among people with Parkinson’s, meaning they don’t know when a person will need a wheelchair or other mobility aids, explained Dr. Jeff Bronstein, professor of neurology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.

"But if our results are confirmed, these gene variants can now identify patients who are likely to have faster progression," Bronstein said.

The researchers hope the findings will also lead to the development of new therapies. The study appeared in PLoS One.