MORE WORK NEEDED: Scientists have discovered a Parkinson's disease gene, but aren’t certain how many cases are caused by its mutation.
The end of June brought with it a pair of studies with potentially valuable information on neurological disorders. In one (M. Polymeropoulos et al., Science, 276:2045-7, 1997), researchers from the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) and from Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in Piscataway, N.J., reported the first-ever discovery of a gene whose mutation can lead to Parkinson's disease. The gene plays a role in the function of nerve cells by coding for a protein called alpha synuclein. The team speculates that the mutation causes an excess of alpha synuclein to gather in brain cells; this excess then attracts other proteins to form deposits that damage the cells. Senior author Robert Nussbaum, chief of NHGRI's Laboratory of Genetic Disease Research, says researchers don't yet know how...

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