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Google Founder, Parkinson’s Disease and Good Marketing?

Sergey Brin, the co-founder of Google, wrote about his genetic predisposition for Parkinson’s Disease on his personal blog. Of course, he shared information from his 23andMe account, what else. His wife, Anne Wojcicki is the co-founder of 23andMe, a personalized genetic company.

Because there are only a small number of genes which are known to have a very substantial effect on health (e.g. 10 times the average risk), I felt the possibility of discovering something very important to my health was just a hypothetical exercise. So, when my wife asked me to look up G2019S in my raw data (23andMe scientists had had the forethought to include it on their chip), I viewed it mostly as entertainment.

But, of course, I learned something very important to me — I carry the G2019S mutation and when my mother checked her account, she saw she carries it too.

Well, he didn’t analyze properly his genetic results as Steve Murphy, our gene sherpa and the clinical genetics fellow at Yale, pointed out some days ago. First, the gene Brin mentioned (LRRK2) is not the most important gene in the story of Parkinson’s and second, his risk cannot be 80%. According to Steve:

Parkinson Disease affects approximately 1% of the population by age 65% and 4 to 5% by age 85 years. Therefore the lifetime risk is 2-5%. So a 1.2 to 2.1 Odds ratio would be 4% to 10% roughly. Not 80%!

LRRK2 is not one those genes that increases your risk by tenfold…

LRRK2 mutation accounts for 5 to 6% of familial PD and 1-2% of sporadic PD. Not exactly what I would call useful for a screening test. Mind you this is given for North Americans and Europeans.

Kevin Fischer had some comments about it as well.

Why was it a fantastic marketing trick?

  • Now everybody is talking about it and the misinterpretation of his genetic data.
  • 23andMe is getting a huge media attention.

Which means Brin is a good husband and knows how to promote her wife’s service efficiently.

20 Comments Post a comment
  1. Berci,
    In my blog I was speaking of LRRK2 pan ethnically and delve deeper into the ethnicity quandry. Which wasn’ t cleared up with this recent study where 1/3 of their patients sampled were African and 1/3rd US admixture….

    Very confusing indeed. Which is why Drew Yates and I have launched The HelixGene Foundation….


    September 24, 2008
  2. Max #

    Thanks for information , nice blog .. keep writing .

    September 28, 2008
  3. I’d say great marketing, but then that’s not going to surprise anybody coming from Google. Good post.

    January 18, 2009
  4. If I remember Sergey’s biography right, his mother is ill from Parkinson’s Disease. Do you people really think Google needs such kind of marketing? :)

    January 19, 2009
  5. HGH #

    my exams are going to start this week! Here comes the stress! Great tips, hopefully it’ll assist me through my hard times x(

    July 8, 2009
  6. james #

    The consequences that cause the disease can lead to death, and so this disease is painful and people suffering from it suffers greatly by the constant pain caused by taking medications that are opioid narcotics such as Lortab, Vicodin, hydrocodone, which are very effective in suppressing the pain that causes the disease, we hope that people care and know findrxonline adequately informed as well as notes on your site.

    January 18, 2010
  7. jameskildare #

    Chronic diseases are of great concern to American society and that, according to findrxonline 40% of them suffer often for the hard physical work they do and that companies do not recognize that chronic pain may suffer from a chronic back pain, back pain, also inadequate form of work that leads to these pains become very painful if not treated properly and taken by the doctor prescribing the right medicines for the treatment chronic.

    January 25, 2010

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