Parkinson's disease is a debilitating, fatal illness that scientists are working to treat and perhaps even cure.
A step in that direction comes in the form of a recent study published in Nature Genetics which claims that scientists have discovered a new gene mutation that causes Parkinson's. The findings were based on 20 years of research.
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According to a press release, this is just the third gene to be "definitively linked to confirmed cases of Parkinson's disease."
In the study, scientists proved that mutations in a gene called TMEM230 were present in patients with Parkinson's from both North America and Asia.
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TMEM230, the researchers explained, is responsible for producing a protein that helps to "package" dopamine in neurons. When the gene malfunctions, dopamine can't be produced by neurons – a hallmark of Parkinson's.
"Previous research has associated disease with various factors in the environment, but the only direct causes that are known are genetic," Dr. Teepu Siddique explained in the release. "Many genes have been claimed to cause Parkinson's disease, but they haven't been validated. We show that mutations in this new gene lead to pathologically and clinically proven cases of the disease."