Google co-founder Sergey Brin has discovered that he carries a genetic variant associated with a fairly serious increase in Parkinson’s disease risk.
Brin found out about the variant through a 23andMe genome scan (Brin is married to 23andMe co-founder Anne Wojcicki, so I’m sure he gets to play with the company’s toys as much as he wants). He announced his result on his new personal blog, TOO; 23andMe’s blog The Spittoon has some additional details.
The variant in question is a mutation called G2019S in the LRRK2 gene, which has been reported in a large number of families with members suffering from Parkinson’s disease. Not all carriers of the mutation go on to develop the disease, but the studies suggest that the variant increases the risk of contracting the illness by the age of 70 by somewhere between 20 and 80% – pretty unpleasant odds (although it should be noted that studies to date suffer from small sample sizes, so the risk estimate is far from rock-solid).
Brin’s mother, who has already been diagnosed with Parkinson’s, also carries the mutation.
Brin seems pretty philosophical about the finding:
This leaves me in a rather unique position. I know early in my life something I am substantially predisposed to. 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.
Of course, it’s probably easier to be philosophical about genetic disease risk findings when things like
health long-term care insurance costs aren’t really an issue…
(Thanks to a reader for pointing out that long-term care insurance is a bigger issue here than health insurance, since LTC insurance is not covered by the Genetic Information Non-Discrimination Act.)