Several studies have linked pesticides with the development of Parkinson's disease, and now a new study has found a specific gene that may explain why some people are particularly susceptible to developing Parkinson's after exposure to certain pesticides.
Parkinson's disease results from the loss of neurons involved in processing the neurotransmitter dopamine. Researchers had previously found a gene that was involved in dopamine processing, and in animal experiments, they determined which pesticides inhibited this gene's pathway.
In the new study, they found that one variant of the gene, called ALDH2, may be even more susceptible to inhibition from pesticides. They then tested for this gene variant in Californians with Parkinson's disease whose exposure to various pesticides could be measured by comparing where they had lived with charts of pesticide use in the state.
The findings show that for people with certain genes, exposure to pesticides may increase the risk of developing Parkinson's disease two to six times, the researchers said.
"We should be much more careful in our industrial agriculture with the agents we're putting out in the environment," said study author Dr. Beate Ritz, a professor of epidemiology at University of California, Los Angeles and co-director of the school's Center for Gene-Environment Studies in Parkinson's Disease. "All of this is environmental exposure, not occupational exposure. It can be quite harmful."
Ritz told Live Science that the study had two goals: to find out which genes might be involved in the nerve death that results in Parkinson's, and to see if there was a variant of that gene that could be found in people exposed to pesticides who developed Parkinson's. [10 Things You Didn't Know About the Brain]
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