Google founder funds Parkinson's study

March 12, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
Google co-founder Sergey Brin has joined the fight against Parkinson's. Brin announced on Thrusday he's funding a study to make gathering data about the disease easier. It turns out, for him, the issue is personal.

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Every step is a struggle for Lilia Lehane. She developed Parkinson's five years ago.

"I can't write anymore, I make funny faces when I don't want to," says Lilia Lehane, a Parkinson's Disease sufferer.

Even though 1.5 million Americans live with Parkinson's, little is known about its cause and there is no cure.

23andMe is trying to change that. The genetic testing company that's organizing the massive study, belongs to the wife of Google co-founder, Sergey Brin. Brin is funding it for personal reasons. His mother has Parkinson's and Brin has a mutated gene that increases his chances of developing the disease himself.

"We just felt the research was advancing too slowly and in reality, to make significant discoveries in health care, it's a data problem and we don't have enough data," says Anne Wojcicki, from 23andMe.

The goal is to get 10,000 people with Parkinson's to take part in the study. To do so, they have to give a saliva sample and then fill out an online, very detailed information form about their disease. After that, researchers will gather up all of that information and hope to publish it in one year's time.

"That would be wonderful to find a cure for Parkinson's," says Arlene Coderniz, a Parkinson's Disease sufferer.

That's why so many are signing up. While attending the Parkinson's Institute Symposium in San Jose. Dr. Melanie Brandabur thinks the study will help find a pattern in Parkinson's patients, which is key.

"So once we find out why some people are susceptible to getting Parkinson's, we can learn more about what factors may actually cause that Parkinson's to develop," says Melanie Brandabur, M.D., the clinic director of the Parkinson's Institute.

Dr. Brandabur hopes that will lead to a cure.

23andMe is the company that is doing the research and hopes to publish its findings by next year.


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