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Google Parkinson's I could go on and on about the downsides of living in a celebrity obsessed culture but here's a positive. They can bring attention to worthy issues like, Parkinson's Disease.

Katherine Hepburn had it. So does Michael J. Fox and now internet giant, Google, is connected.

Before we explain, let's first define Parkinson's Disease which basically impairs our ability to move. This happens when nerve cells stop making dopamine, a chemical that carries signals between nerve cells to allow the brain control of movement.

Without dopamine, hands can tremble, as well as the arms, legs, jaw and face. Balance, posture, and coordination are all impaired. These symptoms worsen with time, though fortunately, usually over many years.

Up to two percent of people over 65 get Parkinson's disease. Patients are given drugs to replenish dopamine in the brain and those who don't respond, turn to surgery.

Doctors implant electrodes in the brain which shoot electrical pulses to try weakening the symptoms. One way people get Parkinson's is through inheriting, in particular, mutations in a gene on chromosome 12. The most common of these mutations called G2019S varies among ethnic groups and geographic origins.

East Asians have less than point-one-percent chance of having the mutation while it's two percent among European descendants. And amazingly, Ashkenazi Jews as well as North African Arabs have up to 15 to forty percent chance of having the mutation.

So how does Google figure into this? Recently its co-founder, Sergey Brin, learned he has the mutation.

Though not everyone with the mutation develops Parkinsons, the odds go up by 30 to 75 percent. That's why Brin has launched a 50 million dollar effort to speed up the development of new treatments or even a cure should he develop Parkinson's in his lifetime.


For more information…

MedlinePlus is the National Institutes of Health's Web site for patients and their families and friends. Produced by the National Library of Medicine, it brings you information about diseases, conditions, and wellness issues in language you can understand. MedlinePlus offers reliable, up-to-date health information, anytime, anywhere, for free.

You can use MedlinePlus to learn about the latest treatments, look up information on a drug or supplement, find out the meanings of words, or view medical videos or illustrations. You can also get links to the latest medical research on your topic or find out about clinical trials on a disease or condition. For their website about Parkinson's Disease, go here.

Online Mendelian Inheritance in Man (OMIM) is a comprehensive, authoritative, and timely compendium of human genes and genetic phenotypes. The full-text, referenced overviews in OMIM contain information on all known Mendelian disorders and over 12,000 genes. OMIM focuses on the relationship between phenotype and genotype. It is updated daily, and the entries contain copious links to other genetics resources.

The magazine New Scientist is an excellent source of science information written to be understandable to anyone, regardless of your background. They published an article about the mutations in Parkinson's Disease.

The scientific publication that revealed this mutation, go to the journal Nature here.

For a story about Sergei Bryn dealing with a family history of Parkinson's and then learning of his own mutation that increase his chances of also developing the disease.