Anyone who has ever contemplated the devastating effects of a neurodegenerative disease like Alzheimer's disease has two disturbing questions embedded in the back of their mind-is it going to happen to me, and if so, when? While there is no definitive answer to the first question-unless you inherit a mutation known to cause familial AD-scientists have identified several factors, including variants of the ApoE gene, that increase one's risk of developing the disease. The question of when one may develop the disease is more difficult to answer, but a recent multicenter study led by Margaret Pericak-Vance, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, North Carolina, suggests that genetics may offer clues.
Results of the study, which appear in April's American Journal of Human Genetics currently available online, suggest a strong link between a gene on chromosome 10q and age at onset (AAO) of AD. Furthermore, the same locus also seems to link to AAO for Parkinson's disease. The authors screened almost 1,500 patients from 449 and 174 families with AD and PD members, respectively. While loci on chromosomes 4q and 8q were also highlighted by the linkage analysis, logarithm of odds (LOD) scores for these sites were not statistically significant in this analysis.
Even though the development of Alzheimer's and Parkinson's are quite different, this new data suggest there may be a common gene influencing the onset of both.—Tom Fagan
- Li YJ, Scott WK, Hedges DJ, Zhang F, Gaskell PC, Nance MA, Watts RL, Hubble JP, Koller WC, Pahwa R, Stern MB, Hiner BC, Jankovic J, Allen FA, Goetz CG, Mastaglia F, Stajich JM, Gibson RA, Middleton LT, Saunders AM, Scott BL, Small GW, Nicodemus KK, Reed AD, Schmechel DE, Welsh-Bohmer KA, Conneally PM, Roses AD, Gilbert JR, Vance JM, Haines JL, Pericak-Vance MA. Age at onset in two common neurodegenerative diseases is genetically controlled. Am J Hum Genet. 2002 Apr;70(4):985-93. PubMed.