However, it is not known what dardarina, the protein that encodes the gene studied, actually does. One of the lines of research is seeking the function of dardarina from the point of view of neuronal death, since it is linked to this process in certain specific brain structures, but its exact role is not yet known.
"Different mutations of the gene are known to cause the protein to do different things, but what the so-called Basque mutation actually does is not fully understood. There is another mutation that is more prevalent worldwide, the G2019S, which is the best known one. It has a more enzymatic activity; it is a kinase, in other words, a protein that transfers phosphate groups from one molecule to another," says Ruiz.
Questions and answers
In this thesis Ruiz studied four families in Gipuzkoa who have the R1441G mutation, and he did this from a range of perspectives. "Well, I've got families with Parkinson's and I want to know why. I do research, but I'm also a clinician, and I'm in contact with patients every day, and the questions I get from them I then transfer to the research," he says.
Ruiz says that the first question is about knowing what having a mutation means. It is the study of penetrance that he did in his thesis; "having a mutation means that by the time you're 80 you have an 83% chance of having Parkinson's," he explains.
Another question is whether the mutation is something by chance or is frequent in the Basque Country. What is more, Ruiz has studied whether the mutation only appears in the patients or whether it is common in the general population. That is why he took samples from people in Azpeitia and Azkoitia, which is where the highest number of patients are, and he found that 1.8% of the general popu
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