Did you know that smokers are 40% less likely to develop Parkinson’s disease? This figure astonishes researchers who have been studying the subject for years. Causality or systematic bias? According to a recent study conducted by INSERM in collaboration with the UCLA, tobacco would indeed have a protective role by interacting with two genes involved in the development of the Parkinson’s disease.
The gene-tobacco interaction
Researchers from the Epidemiology of Aging and Age-Related Disease team in charge of the study showed that smoking had a protective effect against Parkinson’s disease when combined with the presence of specific versions of RXRA and SLC17A6 genes.
Dr. Alexis Elbaz, leader of the team, said that “it is found that people with certain genetic variants will benefit from a protective effect of tobacco, while in those who do not have these variants, it is not the case.”
The genes and their relation to Parkinson’s disease
Parkinson’s disease, characterized by the appearance of tremors, rigidity and/or slow movements, is caused by the progressive death of dopaminergic neurons.
Cell destruction is triggered by a combination of two factors:
- The presence of predisposing genes in the DNA;
- The influence of the environment on these genes;
The study’s results to be studied further
Tobacco, which in this particular case is the environmental factor, interacts with the genes offering protection against Parkinson’s disease.
“Tobacco interacts with genes but does not come into contact with them. We are still at the beginning of the study, we do not yet know what molecules in tobacco are involved and how. But the results will enable disease biologists to hypothesize about the molecular mechanisms involved,” explained Dr. Alexis Elbaz.
In the meantime, researchers plan to confirm this result by analyzing data from 25,000 European patients.
In conclusion, surprisingly enough, tobacco may reduce the risk of Parkinson’s disease by 40%.