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Inside Out: Our Genes, the Environment and Neurodegenerative Disease

by
Linda Seaton
| Jul 08, 2015

At some point in your life, either you or someone you know will be affected by neurodegenerative disease. This untimely breakdown of neurons, which becomes more likely and pronounced as you age, affects millions of people worldwide. Such diseases manifest in myriad ways, including dementia and psychiatric issues. By far, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease are the most common with upwards of 26 million people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and more than 6 million people with Parkinson’s disease worldwide.

Despite the prevalence of these diseases, scientists still don’t understand what causes nerve cells in the brain or elsewhere in the body to die, and there currently is no way to slow down or halt this process. But experts are beginning to parse how disease progression may not only be influenced by our genes, but by environmental factors—such as cigarette smoke and diet—as well.

Jonathan Mill, PhD, Professor of Epigenetics at the University of Exeter and King’s College London is using Illumina array technologies, such as the Infinium® HumanMethylation450 BeadChip, to understand how environment and genetics work together in disease progression. Such studies could shed light on new therapeutic and diagnostic targets, offering relief to the millions of neurodegenerative disease sufferers worldwide.

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