Posted on May 7, 2020

‘The first step in finding the avenue for a cure’

In 2018, Veronica Arevalo was experiencing neurological symptoms and didn’t know what could be wrong. Her boyfriend took her to the hospital where she received a neurological exam. There, at age 48, Veronica was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, the disease her dad had been diagnosed with just 14 years earlier.

“I was always told it wasn’t hereditary,” Veronica said. “But when I was diagnosed in 2018, I said there had to be more to it, because there’s not a lot of information on the types that are hereditary and the types that aren’t.”

This winter, Veronica came across an ad for a Parkinson’s observational research study at Pharmacology Research Institute (PRI) in Encino, California — a research site that is a part of Wake Research, the site network ClinSearch belongs to. Upon learning that the basis of the study was giving a blood sample to look for the genetic markers associated with Parkinson’s, Veronica signed up.

“When my dad was diagnosed, I did my research, and I found that there really haven’t been that many changes or advancements from when he was diagnosed to now,” she said. “When I saw what the study was for, I said, ‘OK, this is actually something that can provide some results to where Parkinson’s is coming from and why.’”

Veronica and her boyfriend near their home in California.

Veronica and her boyfriend near their home in California.

NO KNOWN CAUSE

To date, there is no known exact cause for Parkinson’s disease. Existing research has suggested that genetic factors play a 10-15 percent role in the cause, and that those who have close relatives with Parkinson’s will have a higher chance of developing the disease in their lifetime.

Researchers have found that the genetic cause is due to specific gene mutations linked to Parkinson’s disease that are hereditary. The most frequently known genetic causes are mutations in the LRRK2 (Leucine-rich repeat kinase) gene and in the GBA (glucocerebrosidase) gene.

The study that Veronica participated in at PRI is looking for the LRRK2 genetic marker in individuals with Parkinson’s disease or whose family members have Parkinson’s disease.

“My mom didn’t believe that Parkinson’s was what I had because she believed my dad’s was caused by Agent Orange when he served in the Vietnam War,” Veronica said. “Then my dad felt responsible. So, if my results come back with this gene, I can tell him that it’s this specific marker, it’s a genetic thing, and I can put his mind at ease.”

HOPE FOR A CURE

Veronica hopes that for those who participate in this study, their results may not only give them a peace of mind, but will help contribute to finding out more about Parkinson’s disease — why it develops, a way to treat it, and possibly, finding a cure.

“Once I get my results back, then if I do have that gene, it will give me some kind of knowledge that they’re working on an advancement as to why Parkinson’s develops,” she said.

And she hopes more people affected by this disease will take the step to participate in the study and further contribute to research on Parkinson’s disease.

“People can get a little nervous sometimes about studies, but it’s very easy to do,” she said. “This is the first step in finding the avenue for a cure.”

If you or a loved one have been diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease and you are interested in participating in our study, visit our Parkinson’s study page to find out more information and sign up.