Abnormalities in DNA methylation have been linked to a number of health conditions and there’s now growing interest in the role this plays in Parkinson’s disease. New research published in Genome Medicine is the largest study into this association to date. Here, author Yu-Hsuan Chuang tells us about the research and how the findings could lead to earlier diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease.
Research finds that Parkinson’s disease status is associated with DNA methylation changes in blood and saliva.
Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a common neurodegenerative disorder with a prevalence of 0.5-1% among people over 65 years of age. More than 10 million people worldwide currently live with PD.
Unfortunately, PD is hard to diagnose accurately in the early stages of disease for the following reasons:
1) The characteristic motor symptoms – rigidity, slowness of movement and tremors – do not develop until 50-80% of the dopaminergic neurons in the mid-brain – the source of dopamine in the brain –are lost. Dopamine deficiency results in some of the motor features in PD. Before the onset of these characteristic symptoms – during what is called the prodromal phase that can last for a long time – many nonspecific features of PD dominate.
With 831 subjects in total, our study is the largest yet into the possible role of DNA methylation in PD
2) Other disorders such as post-traumatic, drug- or toxin-induced and arteriosclerotic disorders share the symptoms of PD.
3) Motor and non-motor symptom progression is very variable and unpredictable.
Because of these difficulties, there is an urgent need to develop early diagnostic or prognostic biomarkers for PD that allow for PD to be identified before the onset of symptoms.
Recently, there has been a growing interest in the role of DNA methylation in PD. DNA methylation is an epigenetic mechanism that regulates gene function…