Google Co-Founder Blogs About 23andMe Data, Parkinson’s Risk

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 .

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.

  • folkmbr

    It is fantastic that personal genomics can inform through our DNA of health related issued, both good and bad. I immediately went to my 23andMe account and used the genome browser to look at my LRRK2 status – luckily, I’m not at higher risk. I’m anxious for some studies on Alzheimer’s disease, something that runs in my family. It’s great to have some forshadowing of potential future health issues so we can take action now in our own lives to reduce the impact they will have. I think it is also great that Sergey was open about his own findings, as the more information and transparency we have as a population, the quicker scientists will be able to pinpoint and research cures for diseases like Parkinson’s.

  • paul diberardino

    I too think it is great that personal dna can determine many things about the human body. We are starting to see the Genetic bug hit the commercial space. Genewize Life Sciences out of Florida just started marketing their line of custom vitamins based off your bodies DNA.

  • arvktr

    Honestly, i still don’t get what all the odds mean. I understand that i have “higher odds” of getting a disease, but is it valid? is it proven? can i trust it? till now, no “personalized genotyping” company has answered these questions. All the companies say it is not a medically valid result. Then what’s the point paying 400 to 1000 dollars for a prediction? i personally feel this is more like expensive astrology rather than medical information. If i am wrong, please make me clear about this 🙂

  • arvktr

    guess only sweet things about genotyping can be spat in here

  • nick


    When “higher” or “lower” odds are mentioned, that is a comparison of your risk for an occurrence to the risk of that same occurrence in the general population. So, if you have lower odds of developing condition A, that means you are less likely than average to develop it. This may be further quantified to give you an idea of how much less likely that actually is.

    As for your question of validity, that varies from case to case. It depends on the quality and quantity of research supporting it. 23andMe offers some guidelines about this for conditions in the Gene Journal. You can also do your own research (e.g. pubmed) to assess the validity of supporting research.

    So can you trust it? Sometimes the SNP-disease associations are a near certainty. More often it’s much more fuzzy, but may be enough to give you reason to take some actionable course. Personally, I consider this to be valuable information, and as the pace of science marches on it becomes more valuable.

    When reading the disclaimers that you’re concerned about, consider that lawyers are involved. Enough said on that.