Entries in Gene (7)


Gene Predicts Parkinson's Progression

Comstock/Thinkstock(LOS ANGELES) -- Parkinson's disease, often associated with boxer Muhammad Ali and actor Michael J. Fox, affects one million Americans, according to the National Parkinson Foundation.

While the exact causes largely remain a mystery, doctors know that the condition arises from the degeneration of a specific area of the brain involved in movement.  As a result, those with Parkinson's experience tremors, rigidity, slowness in moving, and difficulty with balancing and walking.  The disease eventually leads to mood disorders and dementia.

Not only is there no cure for Parkinson's, but many patients have no way of knowing how quickly their symptoms will progress.  However, a new study from UCLA may help. 

Researchers have found two variants on a gene already known to be associated with Parkinson's that may be able to predict how quickly patients with the condition will deteriorate.  The study found that patients with one particular variant were four times as likely to have rapid decline of motor function.  Those patients having both of the variants studied were even more likely to see their disease progress more quickly.

The information is important, as patients who have more severe motor disease tend to die sooner.

Dr. Beate Ritz, vice chair of epidemiology at UCLA and the neurologist who conducted the study, stated that up to now, there has been no way to gather this information from a patient's genes.  Finding the telltale signs of a faster decline, she said, helps doctors in "identifying patients who will most benefit from early interventions."

Ritz's study observed 233 patients in California for an average of more than five years -- making it the largest study of its kind on Parkinson's disease motor symptoms to date.

Dr. Puneet Opal, an expert in movement disorders at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine, said the study poses an interesting idea, at least in terms of the basic mechanism of the disease.  However, he said he doesn't believe it will change the management of Parkinson's patients very much.

"If I knew that my patient had one of these genetic variants, I wouldn't treat him any differently than my other Parkinson's patients," he said.  The next step, Opal said, would be to figure out exactly how the brain is damaged by Parkinson's disease.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Love Fatty Foods? Research Indicates It’s Not Your Fault

Thinkstock Images/Getty Images(ST. LOUIS) -- It turns out that your love of French fries and Big Macs might not be your fault.  A new study conducted by the Washington University School of Medicine found that, depending on the individual, certain human receptors are more sensitive to fatty foods.

Out of 21 obese subjects, ages 21 to 50, researchers discovered that those with a certain variation of the CD36 gene had a greater desire to eat more fat-laden foods.

The study, published in the Journal of Lipid Research, aimed to discover “What happens if we look for humans who have a lot or a little of the gene?” said first author M. Yanina Pepino, research assistant professor of medicine.

“We wanted to understand whether people can perceive fat through taste.  Since animals can detect fat as a taste, we wanted to know if we could do it as well,” Pepino said.  “Fat is a critical element for life, although we demonize fat, we can’t forget it is an evolutionary element that we need.”

The study excluded participants with altered taste perception such as cigarette smokers or those who were pregnant.

Each participant was give three cups: two cups had water and the other cup had water and a small amount of fat.  The participants had to taste the three cups to determine which one was different.

“A small amount of pure fat, oleic acid, the principle component of olive oil, was in one of the cups,” Pepino said.

The researchers controlled the study so it was not based on smell, texture, or visual cues.  To keep the study focused on taste, the participants had nose clips to avoid smell.  The researchers also used Arabic gum to mask viscosity and white food dye to mask the color.  A red light was also used to hide the color.

The study determined that, “People with a high sensitivity level of this protein (CD36) require much less fat, while people with less sensitivity require much more fat,” Pepino said.

Whether this study offers an answer to the obesity problem is still an open question, though, experts say.

“We cannot say that there is a cause and an effect,” Pepino said. “There are many factors in the development of obesity.  We’d like to learn does it [CD36] affect how much fat is absorbed?  What are the consequences of this?”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


First Prostate Cancer Gene Mutation Identified

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(ANN ARBOR, Mich.) -- Simple blood tests offer telling signs of someone’s genetic risk for developing hereditary diseases such as breast cancer. But researchers say they have now identified the first mutation associated with a higher risk of developing prostate cancer.

Researchers analyzed more than 200 genes from 94 men with prostate cancer along with their families. Men within four of the families were found to have a mutation of the gene protein known as HOXB13.

All 18 men within the four families who had prostate cancer also carried the HOXB13 gene mutation, according to the findings which were published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Researchers then compared gene results from nearly 7,000 European men, and found that those with prostate cancer had about 20 times the odds of carrying the mutation compared to men without prostate cancer.

“We found that the mutation was significantly more common in men with a family history and early diagnosis compared with men diagnosed later, after age 55, without a family,” Dr. Kathleen Cooney, professor of internal medicine and urology at the University of Michigan Medical School and study author, said in a public statement.

More than 2 million men are living with prostate cancer, according to the American Cancer Society. Cooney said only a small fraction of men might have this genetic mutation.

HOXB13 gene mutation has previously been linked to progressions in breast and ovarian cancer.  

Many experts say these new findings might turn into the equivalent of the BRCA gene mutation, which can identify a woman’s genetic risk for breast cancer.

But until the findings are replicated in more men with various backgrounds, it’s still too early to tell whether a simple blood test will be able to accurately tell a man’s risk for the disease.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Researchers Tap Into 'Super Memory' by Isolating Gene

HANS-ULRICH OSTERWALDER/Getty Images(WACO, Texas) -- There's some hope for those with a failing memory: Scientists at Baylor University say they're now able to give mice "super memories" by isolating a gene that apparently blocks another gene called PKR, which is triggered at the onset of Alzheimer's disease.

And since humans and these rodents share similar brains, researchers now believe they can develop a pill that acts as an inhibitor of the PKR gene that we have similar with mice.

Baylor lead researcher Maura Costa-Mattioli adds that because they can now provide mice with "super memories," the same might be done to help humans in the not-too-distant future.

The goal of the pill would be to provide those with deteriorating memories a boost, not enhance those who are still pretty sharp.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Can Researchers Prevent Cancer from Spreading?

Photo Courtesy - ABC News (LONDON) -- A study, published in Oncogene, reports that stopping the gene, called WWP2, which encourages cancer to move around the body could prevent the disease from spreading.  Researchers at the University of East Anglia are hoping the discovery of this gene could lead to the development of new cancer drugs within the next decade.

Although physicians can often treat primary cancers, it is the spread of tumors and cancerous cells known as metastasis that are notoriously difficult to treat.

Although the study is still in laboratory stages, Dr. Andrew Chantry, the study's leader, says they are "really onto something important if we can put a wall around a cancer and lock it into place."

The team is currently assembling a group of chemists to help them design a drug that will have the ability to block gene activity.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Gene Variant Could Predict Chance of Depression

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(ANN ARBOR, Mich.) -- Whether you roll with life's punches or become depressed in the face of stress may be determined, in part, by your genes, according to new research from the University of Michigan.

The study, published in the Archives of General Psychiatry Monday, examined evidence from 54 studies that identified a particular gene variant, often referred to as the depression gene, as a possible determinant in who will and who will not suffer from clinical depression.

Although the predictive power of the gene variant was recently called into question by a smaller 2009 meta-analysis of 14 studies, researchers argue that the gene, 5-HTTLPR, does, indeed, affect a patient's chances of developing depression.

"That [2009] meta-analysis has been criticized for many reasons, mostly because they only include a few of the studies out there on this gene," says Dr. Srijan Sen, assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of Michigan Medical School and co-author on the study.

"We did a meta-analysis of all 54 studies that exist and, overall, we found that the results support [the existence of the gene] pretty strongly."

Although Sen says the gene has a relatively small impact on chances of developing depression, he hopes that the meta-analysis will help fuel the discovery of other genetic variants that influence depression.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Thrill-Seeking Gene May Lead to Promiscuous Sex, Cheating

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- In what is being called a first-of-its-kind study, researchers at Binghamton University, State University of New York (SUNY) have discovered that about half of all people have a gene that makes them more vulnerable to promiscuity and cheating.

Those with a certain variant of the dopamine receptor D4 polymorphism -- or DRD4 gene -- "were more likely to have a history of uncommitted sex, including one-night stands and acts of infidelity," according to lead investigator Justin Garcia.

DRD4 is the "thrill-seeking" gene, also responsible for alcohol and gambling addictions. The gene can influence the brain's chemistry and subsequently, an individual's behavior.

The desire to cheat or sleep around seems to originate in the brain's pleasure and reward center, where the "rush" of dopamine motivates those who are vulnerable, the researchers say.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio