Parkinson’s Research Using Massive Data Collected from 23andMe


23andMe hopes to find a cure for Parkinson’s through data mining. Parkinson’s is a degenerative neurological disorder that affects millions of people, and a cure is hard to find. The company collects gene samples from people who want to know their genetic lineage, which it then stores and uses for research. Along with submitting their gene users answer questions that allow researches to look into things that were previously too expensive. To properly do the the research 23andMe teamed up with Genentech for the analysis of data.

Which is why Genentech’s next step is to sequence the full genomes of 3,000 of 23andMe’s Parkinson’s patients. These volunteers have answered questions about their family history, how quickly their disease is progressing, what treatments they’ve tried and how well they’ve worked. By drilling down into all 3 billion base pairs, the pharma firm hopes to get past the most common traits of Parkinson’s—the ones that each exert a small effect to sum up to the heritability of the disease. Instead, they’re looking for those rare variants, which destroy more biological machinery than average, leaving a trail of rubble that’s easier to track.“ They’re the extreme breaks in the system,” says Rob Graham, a senior scientist in Genentech’s human genetics group, and coauthor on the Nature Genetics paper.

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Have the Fat Gene? Move!

The developed world is getting fatter and there’s everything you can do about it as an individual: be more active. As obvious as it sounds, being more physically active dramatically reduces your girth. The best part of some new research points out that even if you have a gene that predisposes you to obesity a little bit of physical activity can go a long way.

The obesity susceptibility gene is found in three-quarters of Europeans and North Americans. It is associated with a 20 per cent to 30 per cent increased risk of obesity.

“People who carry the gene but who are physically active have a reduced risk compared to people who carry the gene but are inactive,” Cambridge University medical researcher Ruth Loos said.

The findings highlight the importance of physical activity particularly in those genetically predisposed to be obese, Loos and her co-authors said in the journal PLoS Medicine.

“Physical activity gives them the opportunity to lose weight. So it goes against the often held view that if it’s in your genes, it’s out of your control,” Ross said in an interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

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