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A Family Affair: The Genetics of Parkinson's Disease

A Family Affair: The Genetics of Parkinson's Disease

Genia Brin is a member of MJFF's Patient Council and mother of Sergey Brin, co-founder of Google and a generous MJFF supporter.

Fifteen years ago, I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease (PD). The news brought back a difficult family memory — my aunt also had Parkinson’s disease. It was the first time I considered that the disease might run in my family.

In 2008, my husband, both of my sons and I decided to find out whether we were, in fact, among the rare families where a known genetic mutation plays a role in causing Parkinson’s. A simple DNA test revealed a mutation in my LRRK2 gene – the most common genetic contributor to PD discovered to date. Both of my sons, Sergey and Sam, tested positive for the LRRK2 mutation, as well. And both felt that this information was power. Shortly after, Sergey blogged: “I 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.”

Through my involvement with The Michael J. Fox Foundation, I’ve learned more about the research being done to help all families affected by Parkinson’s disease — not just the ones like ours who carry rare genetic mutations.

For example, the Parkinson’s Progression Markers Initiative (PPMI) is a major study going on right now to learn more about LRRK2 and Parkinson’s disease. And the study needs volunteers.  Even if you don’t have Parkinson’s, you may qualify to play a part in this study.  PPMI needs:

  • People who have Parkinson’s who are of Eastern European (Ashkenazi) Jewish, Basque or North African Berber descent.
  • People who do not have Parkinson’s but are of Eastern European (Ashkenazi) Jewish, Basque or North African Berber descent AND are related to someone with Parkinson’s.

If you belong to either of these groups, visit now.

I am proud of my family heritage, right down to the DNA — from our brown eyes, curly hair, and even our LRRK2 mutation. I hope you’ll join me in finding out how your family genetics may contribute to finding a cure.

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