People are curious how the past may influence their future health

Self-administered DNA genetic testing kits, such as 23andMe® or AncestryDNA®, are gaining in popularity — but they may lead to more questions than answers if you discover a relative with Parkinson’s disease (PD), which can be passed on genetically.

If you do receive a commercial DNA testing result that reveals the potential for a Parkinson’s disease-linked gene or if you have a known first-degree family history of Parkinson’s disease, free genetic counseling is available at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.

Following genetic testing at Ohio State, your results will be interpreted by trained genetic counselors, and we’ll also complete a comprehensive review of your medical and family history to more clearly pinpoint your PD risk factors. It’s powerful knowledge that you can use to guide future healthcare decisions for yourself and your family.

Proactive Peace of Mind

Knowing your genetic risk can provide tremendous peace of mind or serve as a powerful starting point to understand why you have or might develop Parkinson’s disease and what complications you may face in the future so you can adopt a proactive mindset.

Genetic Testing Explained

  • Genetic testing is a medical test that identifies changes in genes that may be linked to inherited diseases, such as Parkinson’s.
  • The results can help confirm or rule out suspected genetic conditions. They may also provide information about the person’s chances of developing or passing on a genetic illness.
  • For Parkinson’s disease, we look for both dominant and recessive genes that may play a role in disease development.

Genetics and Parkinson’s Disease

Knowing your genetics is just a first step. Should a genetic risk of PD be discovered, it’s important to keep the following in mind:

  • 15% of people with PD have a family history of the disease.
  • Only about 5% of people with PD developed the disease as result of a single genetic variant.
  • Even if you or a family member test positive for a Parkinson's gene, it does not mean either of you will develop it. A genetic variant only means you may have an increased chance of developing PD.
  • Most cases of PD are caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. We can help you plan strategies for reducing those risks where possible. Some of the factors observed to increase or decrease risk include: ­
    • Age ­
    • Ethnicity ­
    • Family history of disease ­
    • Genetic risk factors ­
    • History of head trauma ­
    • Exposures to certain chemicals and infectious agents ­
    • Caffeine use ­
    • Exercise
  • Researchers have identified several genes involved in PD risk and the experts at Ohio State will look for and explain each to you. Current testing looks at multiple genes including GBA, PARK7, SNCA, LRRK2, parkin and PINK1. (At-home tests only look for one of several changes in LRRK2 [G2019S] and GBA [N370S]).
  • Another positive benefit is that the results of genetic testing may further Parkinson’s research by allowing scientists to better understand the disease and consequently develop new treatments. ­
  • Some genetic variants will make you eligible for clinical trials. According to the Parkinson’s Foundation, ongoing clinical trials are already testing treatments for people who carry certain PD gene variants in LRRK2 and GBA.

Are You a Good Candidate?

Genetic testing may not be right for everyone — but a genetic counselor, who has special training in genetics, can help you decide if it’s a good option for you.

During your initial appointment, the genetic counselor will review your medical and family history to identify your risk factors for PD. He or she will also discuss your options for genetic testing. Candidates for genetic testing include:

  • Those diagnosed with PD who also have family members with PD
  • Patients with PD of certain ethnicities (e.g., Ashkenazi Jewish)
  • Individuals with young-onset PD that was diagnosed before age 40 (or before 50 if other family members also have PD)
  • People who have had previous genetic testing for PD and have questions about their results

If you do decide to have the testing done at Ohio State, the genetic counselor will then interpret and explain the results to you and work with you to identify PD risk factors you may be able to reduce or eliminate.

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