Parkinson’s disease is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that results from lower levels of the neurotransmitter, dopamine. There is much to be learned about the cause of Parkinson’s disease.
One of the biggest questions that remain is if Parkinson’s disease is genetic or hereditary. There is research to support that there are genetic components to Parkinson’s disease, but the definitive cause remains unclear. Many Parkinson’s disease specialists will support that Parkinson’s disease is caused by a combination of not only hereditary but also environmental factors.
Hereditary diseases are those that are passed down from generation to generation. Hereditary is synonymous to the word genetic, and therefore, both words can be used to describe an inheritance of certain genes that predispose a person to a certain disease.
How Can Parkinson’s Disease Be Hereditary?
Each person contains two sets of genes, one from each parent. If there is an abnormality in a gene that is passed down, then that gene can contribute to the development of Parkinson’s disease. Some gene mutations that are involved in Parkinson’s disease are of the dominant type and some are of the recessive type. The type of gene mutation can contribute to the expression or development of Parkinson’s.
Only a small percent of cases seem to have hereditary factors involved in the development of Parkinson’s disease. In the majority of cases of Parkinson’s disease, there are no apparent hereditary factors that have caused the condition.
Parkinson’s Disease Hereditary Factors
Although a person may have hereditary factors, like a mutation in a certain gene that predisposes them to Parkinson’s disease, it does not mean that they will definitely develop the disease.
Only about 10% of cases of Parkinson’s have a known genetic contribution to the development of the disease. Two genes that are often found to contribute are the SNCA gene and the LRRK2 gene.
The SNCA gene codes for a protein called alpha-synuclein. Alpha-synuclein is a protein that is abundant in the brain, muscle, heart, and other tissues. Its exact function is still unknown. Studies suggest the alpha-synuclein contributes to the regulation of the release of dopamine from the nerve endings. A mutation in the SNCA gene has been found in many families that have had Parkinson’s disease passed down.
A mutation in the LRRK2 gene has also been found in families that have Parkinson’s. The LRRK2 gene has been found as the most often genetic factor for Parkinson’s disease development. Researchers are unsure of the reason this gene contributes to PD. However, this knowledge is foundational for future breakthroughs in the treatment of Parkinson’s.
If I Have Parkinson’s Disease Hereditary Factors, Will I Definitely Get Parkinson’s?
Having a hereditary factor does not mean that the disease will develop. It only means that there is an increased risk for Parkinson’s. There are many people who have genetic mutations that do not go on to develop PD. With more research about these genetic mutations, there will be advances in treatment that can help decrease the risk of Parkinson’s.
Should I Get Tested?
The decision to get tested for hereditary gene mutations is completely up to you. The genetic and hereditary factors give researchers more clues to make newer and more effective treatments.
What researchers learn about the people who have these genetic mutations can lead to breakthroughs that could benefit millions diagnosed with Parkinson’s. Although only a small percent of those with PD have genetic mutations that we know of, the more information that we get will help aid the fight for a cure.
This article is not intended to diagnose or treat any individual with Parkinson’s disease. This article was created for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for medical, psychological or any other sort of professional care.
Please contact The Parkinson’s Plan at 603-605-1477 for additional questions. Don’t hesitate to get in touch with our team.