December 7, 2021

Is Parkinson's Disease Hereditary or Genetic?

Most scientists believe that environmental factors and genetics cause Parkinson's disease.
Tomohiro Takano

Parkinson's disease is a brain-related condition that affects the body's normal functioning. It causes problems for a patient such as stiffness, movement issues, and shaking (tremors), which escalate over time. Some patients experience dementia and emotional changes. This disease is triggered by the loss of nerve cells in the brain that results in related symptoms.

This disease often occurs in phases, with symptoms expected at 60 years old.

However, in some cases, although rare, it might come before the age of 20 years, and specialists usually call it juvenile Parkinson's disease. Fifty years is like the landmark of this disease. If it develops before 50 years, it's referred to as early-onset Parkinson's and, if after, late PD.

While much focus is put on the treatment, which includes therapy, medicine, and to some degree brain surgery, it's still not clear why Parkinson's disease attacks a victim. Scientists and specialists have done their share of research on what causes PD, and there are notable findings that link it to genetics, and some claim it is hereditary.

Let's dig even further for a profound understanding.

Environmental Factors and Genetics Cause Parkinson's Disease

Most scientists believe that environmental factors and genetics cause Parkinson's disease. However, to what extent each element is involved is still a mystery. Genetics is the cause behind about 10 – 15% of all Parkinson's disease. Some families experience mutations in genes inherited and passed on from one generation to another.

Several ethnic groups, such as the following carry these genes linked to Parkinson's disease, and it's yet to be understood why it is so.

- North African Arab Berbers

- Ashkenazi Jews

Over the years of research, scientists have studied the DNA of Parkinson's disease patients and have discovered multiple gene mutations linked to PD.

Nonetheless, there's still a lower likelihood of someone developing Parkinson's disease, even when they have a gene mutation linked to the disease. This is something under research, as specialists are beginning to understand the relationship between genetics and PD. So is Parkinson's disease genetic? There's still uncertainty about its specific genes that cause PD and how other people are protected from developing the disease by some genes.

Genetic changes can affect the operations of mitochondria. This is the part of the cell that's meant to produce energy. The energy-production process results in the release of byproducts known as free radicals, which can cause cell damage. The group of cells in question includes dopamine cells, which are a factor that contributes to the development of Parkinson's disease.

The Role of Genes and Parkinson's Disease

Although genes play a significant role in developing Parkinson's disease, 85% of the cases have no family record. This might sound alarming considering that genetically related medical conditions are often hereditary. Most people with more than three relatives with Parkinson's, specifically those with an early onset PD, have inherited the disease. However, many patients have no records of relatives with Parkinson's.

Do you think that Parkinson's disease is hereditary?

PD can be hereditary, although research has shown that 10% of the patients have a family history of the disease. If your sibling has Parkinson's disease, then there are high chances that you might develop the condition. However, it's not always the case; other factors also play a significant role. Moreover, someone might have conditions that increase the chances of developing PD but might never develop any symptoms. This usually happens because environmental factors have to be present to steer up the development of PD.

So how are Parkinson's diseases inherited? Genetic changes associated with Parkinson's disease include;

We all have two copies of every gene. In autosomal dominance inheritance, an offspring is subject to inheriting either a healthy or unhealthy gene, and there's always a 50% chance of inheriting the faulty one. In autosomal recessive, two parents might have a gene that isn't correctly functioning but not linked to the associated condition. In this case, the child will have a 25% probability of inheriting both faulty genes from the parents, increasing the chances of developing the associated condition. In other cases, a child might not inherit either of the parent's flawed genes but gets exposed to environmental changes (known as Epigenetic), which might increase their risk of developing PD.

To learn more about genetic testings, visit Genomelink.

Hereditary vs. Genetics

Genetic changes are a significant contributor to Parkinson's disease, and they play an essential role in making someone develop the condition. However, these changes are not always subject to inheritance. While someone might inherit faulty genes that might increase their risk of developing Parkinson's disease, most reported cases aren't linked to any family history of the condition.

In this regard, environmental changes are also a major game player contributing to PD development. Such changes might tamper with the genes. Events such as head trauma cases from contact sports or accidents or side effects of particular medicines and substances can disrupt related cells that can hike your risks of developing Parkinson's disease.

So is Parkinson's disease genetic? Definitely! Is it hereditary? Yes, to some degree. Does it entirely rely on these aspects to develop? No!

Final Remarks

Researchers are still unaware of why some people develop Parkinson's disease while others don't. Regardless of how people get Parkinson's disease, every patient experiences dopamine deprivation in the brain. This comes with symptoms and a unique disease progression, and it's always different for each person.

In a nutshell, it is understood that environmental influences, lifestyle choices, and inherited genetics collectively determine whether or not someone will develop Parkinson's disease. However, in most cases, there are isolated cases where inherited genes don't play a role in the development of PD. This is to say that Parkinson's disease requires more research since each patient is unique and requires proper study to develop a collective and efficient cure.

To conclude, Parkinson's disease is hereditary and genetic, depending on the patient's records and situation.

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Tomohiro Takano
Tomohiro Takano
Co-Founder and CEO