By Linnea Langkammer
Faster cognitive decline in individuals with Parkinson’s disease (PD) is associated with a gene once thought to only be connected to frontotemporal dementia (FTD), new research from the University of Pennsylvania finds.
Versions of the gene, TMEM106B, have long been associated with a higher risk and disease severity in a subtype of FTD called FTLD-TDP. But emerging evidence demonstrates TMEM106B may play a role in other neurodegenerative diseases, like PD and Alzheimer’s disease (AD).
Over several years, researchers tested the rate of cognitive decline in individuals with PD, FTD, AD, and mild cognitive impairment (MCI), in addition to genetic testing for TMEM106B.
In subjects with PD, researchers found a faster rate of cognitive decline with the TMEM106B variant linked to FTLD-TDP, demonstrating a connection between the biological workings of the FTD subtype and PD. This finding was consistent across subject populations and nationalities: 33 clinical sites in 11 countries were involved, in addition to the UPenn cohort.
The genetic connection between PD and FTD demonstrates a possible cross-disease approach to diagnostic and therapeutic developments that could benefit both, and potentially other, neurodegenerative diseases.
The study was unable to associate a TMEM106B-connected cognitive decline with AD or MCI. Researchers believe that there may be a relationship between AD and TMEM106B, but a larger population is needed to understand that connection.
Penn Memory Center Co-Director David Wolk, MD, was a co-author on the study.