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Google Co-founder Donating Time and Money to Parkinson’s Research

Dr.Kathy Johnson, PhD, CMC

I learn something new each day, and today is no different. This morning, one of my friends forwarded me an article on the Internet powerhouse, Google.

Google seems to be everywhere these days. With a billion dollar empire there is really nothing that they can’t do. But what many people don’t know (myself included) is that one of Google’s founders, Sergey Brin, is intently involved in the search for Parkinson’s.

Brin has a genetic mutation called LRRK2, which is associated with higher rates of Parkinson’s. Since learning that he had this mutation, he has focused his efforts on preventing and treating the disease. Brin hopes that everything from his exercise routine, the amount of coffee he drinks a day, and his 50 million dollar monetary contribution towards Parkinson’s research, will significantly reduce his odds of developing the disease.

Genetic predisposition is only one factor to Parkinson’s, and he knows that by taking certain precautions he can reduce his risk of developing the disease. “This is all off the cuff,” he says, “but let’s say that based on diet, exercise, and so forth, I can get my risk down by half, to about 25 percent.” Add medical progress to the equation and Brin brings his risk to around 10 percent.

Brin brings his background in business and Google-type methodology to his efforts in curing Parkinson’s. Instead of going the typical scientific method route, Brin proposes using the computer and large data sets to find a pattern in the disease, and going from there. He hopes that advancements in the medical field will see a similar progression to that the Internet has experienced over the past decade.

“I know early in my life something I am substantially predisposed to,” Brin wrote on his blog. “I now have the opportunity to adjust my life to reduce those odds (e.g., there is evidence that exercise may be protective against Parkinson’s). I also 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.”

Brin is one of the few who actually has the resources to change the scientific and medical fields, but his story reminds me that everyone can do something (be it donate money or start exercising more) to live a healthier life.

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