Parkinson's disease - Part one: Take coffee to put off parkinson's
By Syed Akbar With Parkinson's disease increasingly posing a major challenge to researchers and health planners world wide, the World Parkinson Congress comes out with good news. Take coffee regularly and avoid or delay Parkinson's disease. Caffeine present in coffee plays a crucial role in people, who are genetically or otherwise susceptible to Parkinson's. One can now find out whether one's genetic make-up helps in preventing the onset of Parkinson's when he or she becomes old. If their genetic set up carries a particular version of gene called GRIN2A, they can benefit the most from sipping coffee. Scientists at the World Parkinson Congress, which concluded early this week in Scotland, reported that the genetic makeup of a person with Parkinson’s may determine how well he or she will respond to drugs such as caffeine. This is one of the first genome wide association studies that looked at genetic and environmental interactions. The investigators scanned the complete genetic code or genome of 4000 people, about half of whom had Parkinson’s disease, for nearly a million markers. They then collected data on the amount of caffeinated coffee the subjects drank over their lifetimes. Studies have shown that caffeine may decrease a person’s risk of developing Parkinson’s. Preliminary findings from this new study suggest that subjects who carry a version of the gene GRIN2A benefited the most from coffee. According to Dr Haydeh Payami, an investigator at New York State Department of Health, the new findings may help researchers identify patients, who are likely to respond to drugs that target the same physiological pathways as caffeine. Such drugs are currently being investigated as new treatments for Parkinson’s. Concurring with the research finding, Dr Margaret Sutherland of National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, USA, said "the next challenge will be to validate that the coffee and GRIN2A association can be replicated in a larger group of patients." Dr Kieran Breen, Director of Research and Development at Parkinson’s UK, is hopeful that new drugs, without caffeine’s stimulant and diuretic effects, will prove helpful to patients. "The new results suggest the possibility of screening patients for their genetic makeup to determine if they are likely to benefit from drugs that target the brain cells affected by caffeine. Such screening could be done at the outset of clinical trials, and could also become part of routine practice," said Dr Haydeh Payami. Parkinson’s disease attacks parts of the brain that are needed to control movement. Common symptoms include involuntary shaking, slow movement, stiff muscles and impaired balance, all which worsen as the disease progresses. A drug called L-dopa can control symptoms, but causes troubling side effects and does not slow progression of the disease, the researchers said.