By Peace Chenube
Researchers from the University of Lagos (UNILAG) discovered a genetic variant that raises the risk of Parkinson’s Disease (PD) among Africans- as part of the Global Parkinson’s Genetics Program (GP2).
The research findings were the outcome of a multinational team’s collaboration 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. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research and GP2.
The NPDR network and UNILAG team were led by Professor Njideka Okubadejo of the College of Medicine, UNILAG. Prof. Okubadejo stated that the GBA1 findings are a significant step toward a future in which “the research field is prioritizing, learning from, and treating all people with Parkinson’s disease”.
She also acknowledged the crucial role of the supportive research environment at the university and the commitment of the national and international partners that were crucial to the success of the team
Prof. Folasade Ogunsola, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Lagos, commended the UNILAG team on behalf of the University community (Senate, Management staff, Staff, and Students). Prof. Ogunsola stated that the influence of the UNILAG team on the project highlighted the university’s transformation into a Future-Ready institution with marks in a variety of industries, 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 GP2 researchers discovered the mutation in the GBA1 gene as part of efforts to stimulate international or collaborative research into the genetics of Parkinson’s Disease, as well as to revolutionize treatments for Africans.
While further research is needed to determine the specific mechanism of the new variant, preliminary findings indicate that, like other GBA1 mutations, the variant leads to decreased activity of the glucocerebrosidase (GCase) enzyme.
The Global Parkinson’s Genetics Program (GP2) is a resource program of the Aligning Science Across Parkinson’s (ASAP) initiative, funded by the Sergey Brin Family Foundation and implemented by The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research (MJFF).
The GP2 is collaborating with over 140 cohorts around the world, assembling, generating, and sharing data to uncover novel insights and similarities in Parkinson’s Disease.