UNILAG Scientists Identify New Genetic Risk Factor For Parkinson’s Disease In African Populations 

A landmark discovery has been made by researchers at the University of Lagos (UNILAG), who have unveiled a previously unknown genetic variant that heightens the susceptibility to Parkinson’s Disease (PD) in both African and African admixed communities. 


This revelation comes as a pivotal contribution from the Global Parkinson’s Genetics Program (GP2), an international collaborative effort.


The comprehensive investigation involved a diverse team, including the Nigeria Parkinson Disease Research (NPDR) network, International Parkinson’s Disease Genomics Consortium (IPDGC)-Africa, University College London, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in the United States, and 23andMe. Generous funding was provided by the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research and GP2.


Guiding this pioneering research is Professor Njideka Okubadejo, a distinguished Neurology expert within UNILAG’s College of Medicine. Professor Okubadejo emphasizes the integral role of both local and international support in achieving this milestone, stating, 


“This GBA1 discovery is a stride toward a future where Parkinson’s research is inclusive, informative, and therapeutic for all affected individuals.”


Commending the UNILAG team’s involvement in the GP2 project, Vice-Chancellor Prof. Folasade Ogunsola praised their significant impact on this breakthrough, affirming the university’s trajectory towards becoming a forward-looking institution with contributions spanning diverse fields.


Among the outstanding members of the UNILAG team collaborating within the Global consortium (GP2) are Dr. Oluwadamilola ‘Lara’ Ojo, Dr. Osigwe Agabi, Prof. Francis Ojini, Dr. Ismail Ishola, Dr. Francisca Nwaokorie, Mr. Roosevelt Anyanwu, and Dr. Arinola Sanyaolu.


The identified variant within the GBA1 gene has emerged through the diligent efforts of GP2 researchers, who aim to catalyze worldwide collaborative investigations into the genetic underpinnings of Parkinson’s Disease and to redefine treatment approaches for African and African admixed populations.


While further exploration is essential to elucidate the exact workings of this novel variant, initial indications suggest a correlation with previously identified mutations in GBA1, resulting in diminished activity of the glucocerebrosidase (GCase) enzyme.


Initiated by the Aligning Science Across Parkinson’s (ASAP) initiative, the Global Parkinson’s Genetics Program (GP2) receives funding from the Sergey Brin Family Foundation and is executed by The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research (MJFF).


Launched in 2019 by ASAP, GP2 aims to build upon prior funding from MJFF, striving to extend genetic research efforts into populations historically underrepresented in scientific studies. 


With collaboration spanning over 140 cohorts globally, GP2 endeavors to compile, generate, and exchange data, unveiling fresh insights and commonalities in Parkinson’s Disease.


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