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Wired: Search for a Cure of Parkinson’s Disease


Sergey Brin, one of the founders of Google, has been diagnosed to have mutated LRRK2 gene, which can increase the rate of Parkinson’s disease by 30 % to 75 %. As you may know, Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a degenerative disorder that occurs on the central nervous system. When found he had a 50 % rate of Parkinson’s disease, Brin not only worked positively to decrease the chance of PD by exercising and altering eating habits, but also started to perform studies on PD.

Currently, the study of PD is lack of data and systematicness and plenty of PD cases are diagnosed to be congenital, which means there are no other unknown reasons. There are mainly two potential fields in PD research, namely the correlation between LRRK2 and PD, and the correlation between the disease and the deficiency of cells that produce dopamine. Thanks to his 15 billion worth, Brin has donated in total of 50 million on PD research for these two areas separately.  Although a lot of philanthropists donated for the disease they had before, Brin is the first one to fund scientific research on the basis of genetic testing.

Also, Brin found that in medical research, large quantities of data are not being used, “any experience that we have or drug that we may take, all those things are individual pieces of information,” says Brin. “Individually, they’re worthless, they’re anecdotal. But taken together they can be very powerful. In another word, for an individual, everyday activities including eating and medicine taking are all data sources. Through the cooperation of The Foxer Foundation and 23andMe Corporation, Brin proposed a new research mode—Data Mining, which obtains valid information and models via analyzing massive data with noises. Brin provided 4 million dollars for 23andMe to collect personal information of 10,000 PD patients into data base. The patients are also asked to participate in DNA sampling and analyzing and the DNA information are correlated with their environmental exposures, family history, disease progression and treatment response. The studies already reach some beneficial results such as the fact that a PD patient has a rate of five times than normal people to carry Gaucher mutation gene.

Brin wants to fasten the research process and starts some more potential areas and this thinking mode might be closely related with his sensitivity in algorithm and the avocation of computing power for a Googler. “Generally the pace of medical research is glacial compared to what I’m used to in the Internet,” Brin says. “We could be looking lots of places and collecting lots of information. And if we see a pattern, that could lead somewhere.” In other words, Brin passes over the traditional epistemology and methodology because of a Googley science mode. It is seen that Brin seeking for a cure of Parkinson’s disease, is not only a typical story of a billionaire, but also an endeavor that exists around every one of us—the endeavor to work for the unknowns of human beings.

Reference: Sergey Brin’s Search for a Parkinson’s Cure