It has long been known that smoking offers some protection against developing Parkinson's disease and now a Queensland University of Technology PhD researcher has found out part of the reason why.
Yifu Deng of QUT's School of Public Health studied the interplay between genetics, smoking and the development of Parkinson's disease with 400 people who had Parkinson's disease and 400 people without it.
Dr Deng looked at the genetic background of individuals in each group for the presence of the CYP2D6 gene, which had previously been suggested to metabolise the chemical compounds found in cigarette smoke, in both groups.
He found that smokers with the gene who metabolised the cigarette smoke compounds quickly were less likely to be protected than those who metabolised the chemical compounds more slowly.
"It seems that if the chemical compounds stay in the body longer they are more likely to have a preventative effect," Dr Deng said.
"It also seems that if you have the gene but you are not a smoker the gene may have no use in preventing Parkinson's."
Dr Deng said it was not known how the cigarette smoke compounds protected against Parkinson's.
He warned that there were still many smokers who suffered from Parkinson's. Additionally, smoking was notorious for causing cancers.
Parkinson's disease is a common degenerative neurological disease in the elderly, affecting up to 4.9 percent Australians aged 55 and over.
"Our study findings aid in further understanding of the causes of Parkinson's disease and may help identify people who are at higher risk of the disease," he said.
The study is the first to look at the genetic epidemiology of Parkinson's disease by addressing individual genetic types in relation to cigarette smoke metabolism.
Dr Deng's study may provide the potential to reveal new targets for strategies of altering Parkinson's disease risk.
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