Already well-known for expanding technological frontiers, Google co-founder Sergey Brin is now pushing the boundaries of personal genomics with a remarkable post on his new personal blog, TOO.
In the post, Brin shares information from his 23andMe account that indicates he is at substantially increased risk for Parkinson’s Disease. Brin’s mother, who has already been diagnosed with the disease, has the same genetic mutation.
The mutation in question is in a gene known as LRRK2 on chromosome 12. The single-letter change in the DNA code dramatically increases a person’s odds of developing Parkinson’s from one or two in a hundred to as much as eight in 10. One recent study found that a person who inherits the mutation has a 28% chance of developing Parkinson’s by the age of 59, 51% by the age of 69 and 74% by the age of 79.
It’s sobering to hear this news about someone so closely affiliated with our company (Sergey is married to Anne Wojcicki, one of our co-founders). But we’re encouraged too, because Sergey’s post also illustrates the benefit that comes with having access to your genetic information — and the power of sharing it. As Sergey says:
“I now have the opportunity to adjust my life to reduce those odds (e.g. there is evidence that exercise may be protective against Parkinson’s). I also have the opportunity to perform and support research into this disease long before it may affect me. And, regardless of my own health it can help my family members as well as others.”
There are a number of LRRK2 mutations that substantially increase Parkinson’s risk. The one Brin has, which is known as G2019S, is most commonly found among people of Ashkenazi Jewish and North African descent. It has occasionally been found in some non-Jewish European populations, but is virtually unknown in East Asia.
Any customers who want to know their LRRK2 G2019S status now can find out by using the 23andMe Genome Browser to search for their genotype at the SNP rs34637584. Having one or two copies of the A version of this SNP substantially increases a person’s chances of developing Parkinson’s Disease.
Our upcoming Parkinson’s Disease entry will offer much more complete information about the significance of having or not having the G2019S mutation. In the coming weeks and months we plan to provide much more information about Parkinson’s and many other diseases, conditions and traits that are affected by genetics. We hope that like Sergey, you’ll want to join us on this exploration of the genetic frontier.