Joshua Harvey, PhD Candidate, University of Exeter Medical School, Exeter, UK, shares details of his work investigating the impact of epigenetics on differential symptom presentation in patients with Parkinson’s disease (PD). Using DNA methylation data generated from post-mortem PD brain samples, the team identified networks of inter-correlated methylation loci and assessed their associations with psychiatric symptom presentation. Methylation networks within the substantia nigra were associated with several traits, of which depression was the most significant. Gene ontology analysis of the network most strongly associated with depression revealed enrichment for terms related to neuronal functioning. These data implicate neuronal changes in the substantia nigra in depressive symptom presentation which may inform future studies of interventional targets. To continue this work, the team are looking at the expression of risk genes within the depression-associated methylation networks, as well as investigating the use of DNA-methylation data driven subtyping of PD to explain further symptom heterogeneity. This interview took place at the Alzheimer’s Research UK (ARUK) Conference 2023 in Aberdeen, UK.
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