Genes, Aging, and Parkinson’s Disease
Aging is the principal risk factor for Parkinson’s disease (PD). The importance of the genetic and environmental factors influencing natural aging for PD etiopathogenesis, however, is dimly understood. Our knowledge about the extent of overlap between elements predisposing to PD or to aging, and their eventual interplay, is particularly rudimentary. This section illustrates the principal studies describing the relevance of the genetic background for aging as well as the unique challenges intrinsic to these investigations and their consequences on the interpretation of the findings. It also elaborates on the principal genes identified as aging modifiers in human studies and in laboratory animals. The chapter contextualizes these elements in the etiopathology of PD and discusses their potential relevance for the principal molecular mechanisms underlying this disorder. Finally, we propose and discuss possible avenues for future studies indispensable to elucidate the complex interplay between natural aging and PD.