Genetics & Genomics

November 11, 2013

Amish aid study of Parkinson genetics

Amish populations are valuable for genetic research because of their isolation, shared ancestry and homogeneous lifestyles.


Environmental and genetic factors have been linked to the development of the neurodegenerative disorder Parkinson disease (PD). Only a small proportion of the genetic contribution to PD has been identified – genetic variability has complicated efforts to verify proposed PD susceptibility genes and to discover new ones.

To overcome the challenge of genetic variability, Mary Davis, Ph.D., who completed graduate studies with Jonathan Haines, Ph.D., and colleagues have studied Amish communities in Indiana and Ohio. These populations offer advantages for genetic studies because of their isolation, shared ancestry and homogeneous lifestyles, which reduce complications of varied environmental factors.

In the November issue of Human Genetics, the investigators report the association of regions on chromosomes 5, 6 and 10 with PD in the Amish. They performed genome-wide association studies and linkage analyses on 798 individuals (31 with PD) who are part of a 4,998-member ancestry.

The findings support further analysis of the identified genetic regions in the Amish and affirm the value of this population in discovering the underlying genetics of PD.

This research was supported by the National Institutes of Health (AG019085, AG019726) and by the Michael J. Fox Foundation.

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