258[afgen] Scientists trace group of Afrikaners with Parkinson?s to common ancestor
- Jul 1, 2014Hi Steve,Thanks a lot for this article, it is very very interesting. For those with strong ties to the Afrikaner nation, is it permitted to know which families these are?Regards,Rod g
Sent: 2014/07/01 11:20:12 AM
Subject: RE: [afgen] Scientists trace group of Afrikaners with Parkinson?s to common ancestor
Scientists trace group of Afrikaners with Parkinsons to common ancestor
by Tamar Kahn, 20 June 2014, 08:42
LOCAL scientists have traced the origin of Parkinsons disease in 40
Afrikaner families back through the generations to a Dutch-German couple who
married in South Africa in 1668.
The work will not immediately help patients with this debilitating condition,
but it is expected to help researchers home in on some of the genetic defects
that give rise to the disorder, which in turn could lead to new treatments.
Parkinsons disease is a neuro-degenerative disorder caused by the death of
key brain cells responsible for the manufacture of a chemical called dopamine
that sends messages to the bodys muscles.
As the brain produces less dopamine, movement becomes more difficult, leading
to tremors and a shuffling gait seen in many patients. It affects about 4-
million people worldwide, according to the Parkinsons Disease Foundation,
and is incurable.
While there are no detailed statistics on its prevalence in South Africa,
scientists know that it is relatively common among Afrikaners because of the
settlement patterns of their immigrant ancestors.
In early generations in South Africa, a small number of relatively isolated
immigrants lived close together and often married relatives, thus
concentrating defective genes in todays populations.
This "founder effect" is well documented for other diseases. For example, the
rate of a hereditary form of high cholesterol is more common in South African
Jewish, Afrikaner and Indian populations, where it is 1 in 80, than it is in
the general population worldwide, where it is about 1 in 500 people.
Many modern-day Afrikaners can trace their family trees back to the mid-
1600s, thanks to church records that documented baptisms and marriages.
Researchers from the University of Stellenbosch traced the genealogy of the
families of 48 Parkinsons patients at the Movement Disorder Clinic at
Tygerberg Hospital and found 40 of them were descended from a man who came to
South Africa from the Netherlands in 1661 and a German woman who arrived with
her family in the late 1650s.
"People didnt move around very much in those days. South Africa was like a
small island. There were two key founder effects for Afrikaners: people
arrived with Jan van Riebeeck in the Cape, and then migrated north during the
Great Trek," said John Carr, a neurologist at the University of Stellenbosh,
and co-author of a paper describing the research published this month in the
South African Medical Journal.
The fact that 40 families with Parkinsons disease share a common ancestor
makes it likely that they also shared common genetic characteristics that
gave rise to the condition. Although scientists had identified a handful of
faulty genes that were implicated in Parkinsons disease, they accounted for
a very small fraction of patients with the disorder, said Prof Carr. "In 95%
of patients with neuro-degenerative conditions like Parkinsons, Alzheimers
and motor neurone disease, we still dont have a clue what causes it," he
The next step would be to map the genetic blueprint of 15 patients from these
families with Parkinsons disease, and look for common variants among them,
said Prof Carr.
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