Many neurological disorders, such as Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease, are marked by impaired motor skills. In addition, growing evidence suggests there’s a link between some neurodegenerative diseases and body weight. A recent NIH study, for example, found that adults who are obese or overweight at midlife may be at risk for earlier onset of Alzheimer’s disease.
Despite these compelling findings, the genetic risk factors that contribute to the connections between motor impairment, obesity, and neurological disorders are poorly understood. Learning more about these links could shed light on the causes of many neurodegenerative diseases, and possibly lead to new therapies.
Now, a new study by scientists from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) has identified genetic factors that influence motor performance and body weight in a genetically diverse group of mice. The researchers also found the genes identified in the mice overlap significantly with genes related to neurological disorders and obesity in people.
The research, reported November 9 in the journal Scientific Reports, provides further evidence for a link between obesity and neurodegenerative disease. It could also help guide the search for the genetic roots of neurological diseases. (Related news link)