UNILAG researchers unravel novel Parkinson’s genetic risk factor in Africans
Researchers from the University of Lagos (UNILAG) have uncovered a genetic variant that increases the risk of Parkinson’s Disease (PD) in Africans and African admixed populations, as part of key collaborators in the Global Parkinson’s Genetics Program (GP2).
The research finding was the result of teamwork by an international team, including the Nigeria Parkinson Disease Research (NPDR) network, the International Parkinson’s Disease Genomics Consortium (IPDGC)-Africa, University College London, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in the United States, and 23andMe. The study was funded by the Michael J Fix foundation for Parkinson’s research and GP2.
The NPDR network and UNILAG team are led by a Professor of Neurology in the Department of Medicine, Faculty of Clinical Sciences, College of Medicine, UNILAG, Prof. Njideka Okubadejo, who acknowledges the crucial role that the supportive research environment at the university and the commitment of the national and international partners played in the success of the team.
She said: “This GBA1 result is a step toward that future, where the research field is prioritising, learning from, and treating all people with Parkinson’s disease.”
The Vice-Chancellor, University of Lagos, Prof. Folasade Ogunsola, on behalf of the university Senate, management, staff and students, congratulated the UNILAG team on the GP2 project for their impact in the latest discovery. Ogunsola said that the UNILAG team’s input and impact on the GP2 further accentuated the university’s migration into a Future-Ready institution with imprints in various fields including Science.
Other members of the UNILAG team collaborating with the Global consortium (GP2) include: Dr. Oluwadamilola ‘Lara’ Ojo (Associate Professor and Site Lead Investigator, Faculty of Clinical Sciences (FCS); Dr. Osigwe Agabi (FCS); Prof. Francis Ojini (FCS); Dr. Ismail Ishola (Faculty of Basic Medical Sciences (FBMS); Dr. Francisca Nwaokorie (Associate Professor, FBMS); Mr. Roosevelt Anyanwu (Central Research Laboratory CMUL), and Dr. Arinola Sanyaolu (FBMS).
The variant on the GBA1 gene was identified by the GP2 researchers as part of efforts to galvanize international/collaborative research into the genetics of Parkinson’s Disease as well as revolutionize treatment for the African and African admixed population.
While more research is needed to define the exact mechanism of the new variant, initial findings also suggest that like prior mutations in GBA1, this variant results in lowered activity of the glucocerebrosidase (GCase) enzyme.
The Global Parkinson’s Genetics Program (GP2) is a resource programme of the Aligning Science Across Parkinson’s (ASAP) initiative, it is funded by the Sergey Brin Family Foundation and implemented by The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research (MJFF).
The Aligning Science Across Parkinson’s (ASAP) launched GP2 in 2019 to follow up on previous funding efforts from the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research (MJFF) with a view to expanding global genetics study in populations traditionally underrepresented in research.
GP2 is partnering with over 140 cohorts across the world, assembling, generating and sharing data to uncover novel insights and similarities in Parkinson’s Disease.