Understanding Genetic Implications of the Black and African American Connections to Parkinson’s Disease Study (BLAAC PD)
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Understanding Genetic Implications of the Black and African American Connections to Parkinson’s Disease Study (BLAAC PD)

By Sara Bandres-Ciga, J Solle, Alyssa O’Grady, and Bernadette Siddiqi | |
  • Co-lead, Training and Networking

    Sara Bandres-Ciga, PharmD, PhD

    National Institutes of Health | USA

    Sara is a molecular geneticist whose research interests are primarily focused in understanding how genetic variation spanning the etiological risk spectrum affects neurodegenerative diseases from monogenic to more complicated sporadic forms. She is currently a post-doctoral researcher at the Laboratory of Neurogenetics at the National Institutes of Health, National Institute on... Read More

  • Justin Solle
    Co-lead, Operations and Compliance

    J Solle, MBA

    The Michael J. Fox Foundation | USA

    J is the implementation Program Lead for GP2, co-lead for the Operations & Compliance Working Group, and a member of the Operations Committee. J joined the Michael J. Fox Foundation in March 2021 and is the Director of Clinical Research, leading the implementation of GP2.

  • Working Group Participant

    Alyssa O’Grady, BA

    Michael J. Fox Foundation | USA

    Alyssa joined The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research (MJFF) in 2015. As senior associate director, research cohorts, Alyssa supports operations, recruitment, and retention for the Parkinson’s Progression Markers Initiative (PPMI), MJFF’s flagship natural history study. She is also the co-lead of the Global Parkinson’s Genetics Program (GP2). Alyssa gradu... Read More

  • Working Group Participant

    Bernadette Siddiqi

    The Michael J. Fox Foundation | USA

    Bernadette is an Associate Director of Research Partnerships at The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research. Bernadette focuses on developing and implementing strategies to grow the pool of eligible study volunteers and improve recruitment and retention to Parkinson's trials. She designs studies to understand barriers and motivations to research participation and tes... Read More

Over the last two decades, we have witnessed a revolution in the research area of complex genetic diseases, including Parkinson’s disease. Great advances have been made in identifying both causal and risk variants, which have subsequently led to an improved understanding of the molecular pathways involved in disease etiology.

Around 90% of the genetic studies performed to date in the Parkinson’s disease field, and on a genome-wide scale, have been performed on European ancestry populations. The Global Parkinson’s Genetics Program (GP2) is committed to closing the gap in this disparity by increasing representation of communities that have been traditionally underrepresented in Parkinson’s research.

As part of this commitment, GP2 launched the Black and African American Connections to Parkinson’s Disease study (BLAAC PD) this year. The main goal is to dissect the genetic architecture of Parkinson’s disease in these populations and to understand if the interventions, potential targets for Parkinson’s disease treatments, or the prevention strategies that are being studied in the European ancestry populations are relevant to these populations. To achieve this, the BLAAC PD study will recruit Black and African American people with Parkinson’s disease as well as control volunteers from across the United States. Beyond genetics, this pioneering study will also serve as a foundational cohort to assess diverse aspects of Parkinson’s disease in these populations.

To date, the genetic impact on Parkinson’s disease susceptibility in Black and African American populations is largely unknown. In fact, in this context there are very few published studies in the literature, and these include less than fifty individuals. Therefore, it is imperative to fill out this gap of knowledge that exists in the field and advance research that includes Black and African American participants.

Promoting genetics research in this population has many potential benefits. It will enable the identification of a fuller range of genetic variation and could inform development of more inclusive genetic tests. This research could also help elucidate disease mechanisms and aid in more effective drug development for all communities. Additionally, fine-mapping analyses across the Black and African American populations could be extremely useful given the allelic diversity and linkage disequilibrium patterns to identify putative functional variants that can provide insights applicable to a broad disease landscape.

This pioneering research project will give rise to the generation of valuable data in a continuous effort to uncover the molecular complexity underlying Parkinson’s disease etiology.

Read more about our work with BLAAC PD.