In the United States about a million cases of Parkinson’s disease, a debilitating neurological disorder affecting the central nervous system, exist. Additionally, there are thousands of new cases reported each year, and there is no cure (1). However, researchers are making substantial advances in understanding the roles of both genetic and environmental factors and how these factors can lead to the disease. The purpose of this study focuses on the roles that the SNCA gene (alpha-synuclein gene) and pesticides play in the development of this disease. As research is on going, the identification of each environmental factor and abnormal gene gives scientists another indication of a cure.
While many researchers today believe that numerous genes contribute to an individual developing the disease, the first Parkinson disease related gene identified was the SNCA gene. This gene is responsible for coding of the protein alpha-synuclein. Scientists looked for genetic factors through research on a large family in Iowa. They observed information from over 200 members of this family dating back as far as the 1800s. Mutations in the SNCA gene were a causal gene in their disease. As some family members had extra copies of this gene, it produced excessive amounts of the protein alpha-synuclein or an abnormal form of the protein (2).
In addition to the previously mentioned study, other researchers observed a family in Italy that also pointed to the SNCA gene. The brains of family members who died with the disease contained deposits of the protein alpha-synuclein. These deposits called Lewy bodies derived their name from Frederic H. Lewy, the doctor who discovered them. Continuations of studies confirm that a common pathological characteristic in patients with this disease is the abnormal accumulation of this protein. Under a microscope, these deposits can be observed within nerve cells in the brain (3).
Furthermore, nerve cells in the brain produce a chemical called dopamine, which is responsible for sending...