Parkinson’s disease is a chronic neurodegenerative disease, the second most prevalent such disorder after Alzheimer’s disease. It is a slowly progressive disease caused by the death of small clusters of cells in the midbrain that results in reduction of a critical neurotransmitter called dopamine, the chemical messenger responsible for coordinated muscle movement. While research shows that genetic factors play a significant role in one type of Parkinson’s called early-onset in which symptoms begin before the age of 50, genetic predisposition is not considered a contributing factor when symptoms develop later in life. NIEHS-funded researchers have identified 12 susceptibility genes that may make some people more to develop Parkinson’s later in life. Other researchers are testing the hypothesis that Parkinson’s may be triggered by contact with pesticides and other chemical pollutants.
What NIEHS is Doing on Parkinson's Disease