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DeCode Uncovers Parkinson s Gene; Diagnostics, Drugs Planned

NEW YORK, Oct. 23 – DeCode Genetics has used data gleaned from its population genomics research of patients in Iceland with Parkinson’s disease to map the first gene linked to the main form of the disease, the company said on Tuesday.

The next step, the firm said, is to develop DNA-based diagnostics and drugs to treat the disorder.

The discovery also served to challenge the widely held notion that there is no identifiable genetic component that contributes to the development of the disease.

"Many scientists and funding agencies had recently concluded that there was no identifiable genetic component to late-onset Parkinson’s," Kari Stefansson, deCode genetics’ CEO, said in a statement. "We are very pleased to have been able to counter this skepticism because our results offer the possibility of developing new drugs and diagnostics that may help to diagnose and treat this very devastating disease by targeting its root causes.”

To uncover the Parkinson’s disease gene, which was found to inhabit a small region of chromosome 1, deCode researchers analyzed genotypic data from volunteer patients with late-onset disease as well as data from their unaffected relatives from 51 families across Iceland, the company said.

“Although genetic factors for rarer forms of Parkinson’s have been identified by other research teams, deCode’s finding is the result of the first population-wide study of the disease and represents the first genetic locus for the late-onset form,” the firm added.

Last month, DeCode, which is based in Reykjavik, Iceland, has achieved several milestones in its deal with Roche to identify genes related to obesity and clinical anxiety.

As GenomeWeb reported, DeCode said that it used genotypic data from more than 11,000 volunteers to locate a chromosomal region that contributes to obesity. The company said that through its studies it also located a gene variant that may protect obese people from contracting type-2 diabetes.

In addition, DeCode said that its genome-wide linkage studies have resulted in new findings about the genomic roots of clinical anxiety. The company genotyped some 500 individuals who had indicated that they had symptoms of anxiety and also focused on extended families where at least one individual suffered from panic disorder.

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