When Parkinson's Runs in the Family
If Parkinson's "runs" in your family, should you take a test to learn what the future may hold?
That's a dilemma that will increasingly confront more families in the future. Until recently, Parkinson's was not thought to have a genetic basis, but now scientists think family ties matter for a small, but not insignificant, percentage of people with the condition.
So if you have several family members with PD, should you get yourself tested? Ideally, the point of genetic testing is to identify a risk that you can do something about. For Parkinson's this would mean someone with a family history of the disease could take a test long before symptoms begin and then take a drug that would fix the genetic mutation, stopping the disease before it even starts. But we're not there yet. So in the meantime, given that testing is available but a cure isn't, what should families do?
This is where it gets very personal. Some people like the idea of knowing what may lie ahead. Others feel there's no point. In my own family, the "next generation" is taking a wait and see approach. At the moment, they feel they know what they need to know (including the value of exercise!) and that a genetic map of the future isn't that useful. But I also know of others, including Google founder Sergey Brin, who've made a different choice. It's a very personal question for which there's clearly no right or wrong approach.
What do you think? If there's a history of Parkinson's in your family, I'd be really curious to hear your views, so please add your comments using the button at the top of this post!