Bishop Sullivan Catholic High
Recent research demonstrates that certain types of PD [Parkinson's disease] are inevitable
regardless of environmental factors, but most forms of the disease result from
the compilation of negative environmental stimuli and genetic mutations.
The PARK-1 genes promote the production of alpha-synuclein proteins (Gwinn).
These normally harmless proteins cause brain cell death when found in high
concentrations. In fact, Lewy bodies composed of alpha-synuclein accumulate and
destroy dopaminergic neurons (Gwinn). Interestingly, the genes triggering this
accumulation rarely mutate somatically, implying that mutations on the PARK-1
gene are almost always hereditary (Proukakis). Furthermore, the individuals who
contract genetic PD in relation to PARK-1 come from varied backgrounds and
differing environmental circumstances (Golbe). Genetically induced PD generally
becomes apparent at an earlier age and destroys motor function as well as mental
capacity far more quickly than “idiopathic” forms of the disease (Golbe).
In one of the most intriguing discoveries
related to PD, a group of young people inadvertently
provided a central clue in determining the environmental
causes of PD (Tanner). While using a recreational designer
drug, the youths consumed “a street made narcotic metabolite
(MPTP)” (Strickland). This substance, which turned out to be
remarkably similar to many common herbicides and pesticides,
proved highly destructive to dopamine receptors in the
substantia nigra and caused acute Parkinsonian symptoms in
the users (Strickland,Tanner). Researchers subsequently
studied the relationship between pesticide use and PD
occurrence (Tanner) and discovered a direct correlation
between the use of the pesticides and the incidence of PD
Despite recent advancements, research has been unsuccessful in discovering the exact etiologies of PD. Though researchers have gained a broad understanding of both genetic and environmental factors which contribute to PD, the relationship between the two has eluded researchers for nearly two centuries. Currently, the only consistent link between all PD cases is the loss of dopamine producing neurons. In the future, the causes of this dreaded disease will hopefully be better understood and appropriately classified in order to expedite the treatment of patients.