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The UCLA Parkinson’s Environment and Gene StudyFunded by NIEHS
Director: Beate Ritz, M.D., Ph.D.

The UCLA Parkinson’s Environment and Gene Study explores how genetic and environmental influences combine to increase the risk for PD in susceptible individuals through interplay between neurotoxic pesticides and biologic mechanisms regulating the neurotransmitter dopamine in brain cells.

Although exposure to pesticides and herbicides has long been suspected to be a risk factor in Parkinson’s Disease, no clear association has been demonstrated with any specific pesticide. One limiting factor in this assessment could be due to the fact that no reliable methods of determining the length, amount and degree of exposure have been available.

By conducting a long term investigation of a large and well-characterized population of patients within California’s central agricultural region, and the use of sophisticated Geographic Information System (GIS) based analyses, our research team has the unique opportunity to explore the role of gene-environment interactions in disease susceptibility and progression.  This analysis takes advantage of avaliable records of amounts, types, and areas of pesticide use in the Central Valley for the past 20 years, which combined with data regarding work and life habits, allow us to make accurate inferences regarding an individual's prolonged and/or repeated exposure to toxins. In addition, the interplay of certain gene variants with these environmental factors will be evaluated to better understand the individual genetic factors that confer vulnerability to developing Parkinson's disease.