Milestones in the Fight Against Parkinson’s Disease

It’s been an exciting year for research on Parkinson’s disease. In March, scientists from Stanford were able to recreate features of the disease in a petri dish using cells from a Parkinson’s patient. In June, we published a paper in PLoS Genetics detailing our discovery of two novel genetic associations with Parkinson’s. Now, we’ve also identified a genetic factor in a gene called SGK1 that may protect against the disease.

This preliminary finding comes as a result of our innovative research and recruitment platform, which in just a few years has assembled the largest single genotyped group of Parkinson’s patients in the world. Of the 125,000 individuals in 23andMe’s database, there are more than 6,000 with Parkinson’s disease.

Even more astonishing is the fact that we can collect large cohorts of people who share similar genetics, regardless of their health status. Most studies can only recruit individuals who have a disease, but our database allowed us to identify the world’s largest cohort of people carrying the G2019S variant in the LRRK2 gene. Roughly 1 in 10,000 people have this variant, which is associated with a 50% lifetime risk of Parkinson’s compared to about 1% in the general population. But within our database there are many people with this high risk variant who are at an age when they should have developed the disease but have not. By comparing these people to those with the variant who did develop Parkinson’s, we were able to discover the potentially protective nature of SGK1.

Watch 23andMe CEO and co-founder Anne Wojcicki discuss this finding in conversation with WIRED editor Thomas Goetz at the Web 2.0 conference.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9fMeb9urMhw

With generous support from The Michael J. Fox Foundation (MJFF), we’ve partnered with The Scripps Research Institute to study the connection between SGK1 and LRRK2 further to see if the finding could lead to a potential new treatment for Parkinson’s disease. Said Todd Sherer, CEO of MJFF, “The SGK1 discovery, while still early-stage, is a promising outcome of this unique research platform… We are eager to see the results of the continued investigation of SGK1 by Scripps.”

Of course, none of this would be possible without our amazing research participants. Although we are well on our way to 10,000, we still need the support of thousands more to reach our goal. If you or someone you know has Parkinson’s disease, we encourage you to join the community. Participating is easy — just visit http://www.23andme.com/pd to get involved!

Watch Paula, who has Parkinson’s disease, tell her story. (This video was first shown at Health 2.0 San Francisco earlier this fall.)

This most recent finding is just the tip of the iceberg of what is possible when individuals come together to contribute to research. We continue to be inspired, not just by the progress we’re making, but by people like Paula, who are fighting every day with grace and courage and working towards making the world better for people with Parkinson’s.

Learn more at http://www.23andme.com/pd/.


  • Shelley Burke

    I am very excited about this discovery, my uncle lived to 90 had the LRRK2 gene and never developed Parkinsons. I guess he had that protective gene, I am hoping other members also have it. Congrads on this wonderful discovery!!

  • jerry kopf

    Is there a value for Parkinsons suffers in pursuing a gene therapy solution?

    ie NRGX (Neurologix)

    tx in advance…jerry

  • http://centurylink.com linda ayers

    If there is something i can do please tell me. I am glad to help in any way i can. just let me know.

    • http://23andme.com Shwu

      Thanks everyone for your support!

      Linda, if you have Parkinson’s and are not already part of our community, we encourage you to join here: http://www.23andme.com/pd. If you are already a member or don’t have Parkinson’s, simply spread the word — the more people there are contributing to research, the more discoveries we can make!

  • Gary Schubert

    How many permutations of Parkinson’s are there? I know of three, including myself, and we all have different symptoms, and are all at different time frames in the disease.

  • CAROL BECHT PONTON

    THANK YOU 23 & ME. I HAVE A FORM OF PARKINSON’S DISEASE. i DO NOT HAVE TREMERS SO FAR BUT I DO LOSE MY BALANCE AN FALL AT LEAST ONCE A MONTH SOMETIMES MORE.

  • http://Yahoo Fran

    Very interesting info. Hopefully we will soon find a cause and cure for this horrible disease.

  • Annette Wurdeman

    This is the most encouraging news I have heard in 16 years of this disease. My father also was diagnosed with Parkinson. I do not want to see another family member with this disease and you have given me hope that this may never happen again.

    Thank You & God Bless You.

  • Terrence Doyle

    I first submitted a sample in 2007. My mother had Parkinson’s from the age of 72 and died of multiple TIAs and stroke at 87. No one else in my extended family (42first cousins) has developed the disease. Most are over 60 with the oldest at 77. The data you have sent me indicates typical risk for Parkinson’s. I am a big believer in what you are doing. My background is in cancer drug discovery and development (40 years). If there is anything I can do to advance what you are doing please let me know.

    Terry Doyle Ph. D.

    • http://23andme.com Shwu

      Hi Terry,

      Thanks so much for your support. Being a member and participating in genetic research through surveys is already a huge contribution. As specific studies come up, we do notify eligible members, so perhaps there will be one you can be involved in in the future. Thanks again and happy holidays!

  • Michael Caldwell

    Thank you for all the research you are doing. Please keep me advised of any advances in medications and advances in parkinson’s in general. All the best in your research! Thank you.

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