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23andMe Parkinson's Initiative Passes Enrollment Milestone

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – The consumer genomics company 23andMe said today that it has enrolled more 10,000 people with Parkinson's disease into its initiative to amass genetic and environmental data about the disease.

The firm's Parkinson's Research Community project, launched four years ago, provides free genetic testing and health and ancestry data for Parkinson's patients who provide saliva samples and answer questionnaires related to their diseases, environment, and treatments.

Now, the company plans to begin using the data from donors to study the relationships between genetic factors and the environment in the development of Parkinson's, how different individuals with the disease react to different treatments, and how the disease progresses.

“This is a tremendously rich dataset and we want to learn as much as we can from it," the Mountain View, Calif.-based company's Parkinson’s Research Manager Emily Drabant said in a statement posted on 23andMe's blog.

The company said that its crowd-sourcing research model "offers great potential for the study of many different diseases, but is ideally suited for studying diseases like Parkinson's in which patients are limited by their illness."

Drabant added that “[t]he symptoms of Parkinson’s often interfere with motor skills and affect each individual differently, so a traditional approach to research that requires individuals to physically go to a clinical research center can be a huge barrier to participation and data collection."

The company said that this project has led to the discovery of two new genes associated with Parkinson's and a gene that may protect against the disease.