Google co-founder at increased risk of Parkinson's, according to 23andMe

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.)

More like this

Lots of bloggers in the DNA network have been busy these past few days writing about Google's co-founder Sergey Brin, his blog, his wife's company (23andme), and his mutation in the LRRK2 gene. I was a little surprised to see that while other bloggers (here, here, here, and here) have been…
Over at the 23andMe blog The Spittoon, company co-founder Linda Avey expands on her vision for a novel model of genomic research, in which personal genomics customers contribute their genetic and health data to fuel research into the inherited and environmental triggers for disease. This is a model…
In October last year I reported on a presentation by direct-to-consumer genetic testing company 23andMe at the American Society of Human Genetics meeting in Honolulu, in which the company described results of genetic association studies performed using combined genetic and survey data from their…
(Gene Genie logo created by by Ricardo Vidal) Welcome to the 16th edition of Gene Genie, the carnival of genes and genetic diseases. In this edition, genetics gets personal. The recent publication of Craig Venter's genome (and, before that, James Watson's) was big news. It ushered in the new…

The question is however, did Mr Brin learn anything new? Since his mother was already suffering from Parkinson's, he could already know that he is at risk too.

By Henk Visscher (not verified) on 21 Sep 2008 #permalink

Hope your arrival has been safe.

I read this story, and I thought it would be interesting to consider exactly how "philanthropical" Brin's donations to Parkinsons charities can really be considered. He is basically trying to get something to save his own ass... a la South Park's Christopher Reeves?

Even more insidious. Could gene scans for you-got-X risk factors be used as scare campaign tactics to get the funds? (Not that I'm really against getting more money for medical charities)