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dyskinesia returning after treatment was discontinued. No patient reported worsening of parkinsonian symptoms, and several reported improvements.

Caffeine May Prevent Parkinson's by LINDSEY TANNER, AP Medical Writer

CHICAGO, May 23, 2000 {AP) - An intriguing new study suggests coffee may prevent Parkinson's disease. How a product that makes people jittery could keep them from getting a disease that gives them tremors is a paradox not examined in the study of 8,004 Japanese-American men in Hawaii. The researchers said the benefits are probably due to caffeine - apparently the more, the better. Outside experts said that if the findings hold up, they could lead to ways to treat PD more effectively or even prevent the disease.

The study found that men who didn't drink coffee were five times more likely to develop PD than those who drank the most - 41/2 to 51/2 6-ounce cups a day. Non-coffee drinkers were two to three times more likely to get the disease than men who drank 4 oz to four cups a day.

Ross said it is possible that heavy coffee drinkers have a brain composition that may make them resistant to PD. Previous studies have found low rates of Parkinson's in "thrill-seeking" people who tend to engage in high-risk behavior like smoking and heavy drinking, and heavy coffee drinking also fits that personality profile. However it is too early to recommend coffee as a treatment

The latest issue of SPRING's newsletter includes articles on Stem Cells; PDS Medical Advisory Panel meeting; Medical Research Funding; Parkinson's Disease Nurse Specialists.

SPRING is the Special Parkinson's Research Interest Group, the official Special Interest in the Parkinson's Disease Society of UK .

Gene Linked to Early-Onset Parkinson's Disease

NEW YORK, May 26, 2000 (Reuters Health) - Mutations in the parkin gene can cause Parkinson's
disease to develop early in life, but the symptoms of this early-onset form of the disease do not
differ from the later developing illness.

Parkin gene mutations have only recently been linked to Parkinson's disease in younger individuals, so the frequency of the mutations and the manifestations of this form of the disease have not been studied previously, according to Dr. Christoph Lucking from Hopital de la Salpetriere in Paris, France and an international team of researchers.

The authors studied 73 families vvith early-onset, inherited Parkinson's disease (including 152 affected family members), as well as 100 other patients whose early-onset Parkinson's disease did not appear to be inherited.

Nearly half of the families with early-onset Parkinson's disease (PD) showed mutations in their parkin genes, the authors report, whereas 18% of the patients with isolated early-onset PD had parkin gene mutations. In both groups of patients, two abnormal parkin genes appeared to be required for PD to develop. Geneticists called such diseases autosomal recessive, meaning that an affected gene is inherited from each parent

Patients who carried abnormal parkin genes were younger when their disease developed, and they were more likely to show abnormalities in muscle tone and reflexes than their normal-parkin-gene counterparts, the report in the May 25th issue of The New England Journal of Medicine indicates.

Once PD developed, patients with parkin gene mutations were more likely than those without mutations to improve with medical therapy, the researchers note, although they were more likely to experience side effects from the drug levodopa.

Despite these differences, the investigators suggest, physical examinations and symptoms were not specific enough to be able to distinguish patients with mutations from patients without mutations.

A wide variety of parkin genes was detected by specific testing, the researchers say, but a relatively simple screening test should detect 70% of the parkin mutations that cause PD.