Blogosphere Debates Personalised Medicine

My morning read of Scienceroll highlighted a blogosphere debate regarding Sergey Brin’s recent blog posting about 23andMe.

The New York Times picked up on Sergey Brin’s new blog post. Unfortunately, according to Dr Steve Murphy, (aka The Gene Sherpa) they got some key facts wrong.

The New York Times:

Mr. Brin, who made the announcement on a blog, says he does not have the disease and that the exact implications of the discovery are not clear. Studies show that his likelihood of contracting Parkinson’s disease in his lifetime may be 20 percent to 80 percent, Mr. Brin said.

Dr Murphy:

Parkinson Disease affects approximately 1% of the population by age 65% and 4 to 5% by age 85 years. Therefore the lifetime risk is 2-5%. So a 1.2 to 2.1 Odds ratio would be 4% to 10% roughly. Not 80%!

Sergey Brin’s Blog

Sergey Brin has a new blog which he talks about his discovery through the 23andMe personal genetics testing service that he is at ’20-80%’ higher risk of developing Parkinson’s Disease than the general population:

This leaves me in a rather unique position. I know early in my life something I am substantially predisposed to. 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.

I’ve highlighted a particularly interesting sentence. Do you think we will start seeing a trend where wealthy individuals start contributing to research that might provide them personally with a benefit within their lifetimes? This is of course already happening to some degree, but genetic testing will give them the opportunity to invest more accurately for their personal benefit.