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University of Washington

Superfund Research Program

Environmental and Biochemical Risk Factors for Parkinson's Disease

Project Leader: Harvey Checkoway (University of California-San Diego)
Grant Number: P42ES004696
Funding Period: 1995 - 2009

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Project Summary (2000-2006)

Parkinson's disease (PD) is a chronic neurodegenerative disorder that affects millions of persons worldwide. The etiology of PD remains largely unexplained. There is, however, increasing experimental and epidemiologic evidence suggesting environmental toxicants, including those commonly found at hazardous waste sites, are etiologically related to the development of PD. Additional evidence points to the significance of gene/environment interactions, whereby persons who carry genotypes predictive of either a diminished capacity for chemical detoxification or enhanced propensity to activate pro-neurotoxicants are most susceptible to environmentally-induced PD. This project is extending an ongoing population-based case-control study to investigate the effects of environmental and genotypic risk factors, and their interactions, on risk of PD. The investigators are focusing on exposures to industrial solvents, heavy metals, and pesticides. The unifying hypothesis of PD pathogenesis underlying this research is that chemicals that provoke oxidative stress reactions destroy dopaminergic neurons preferentially among persons with genetically determined susceptibilities. Furthermore, this project may ultimately serve as a model approach for investigating the complex interplay between low-level environmental exposures, as would be anticipated to result from hazardous waste sites, and host factors on risk for neurodegenerative disorders.

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