Michael J. Fox Foundation, 23andMe to Jointly Advance Parkinson’s Disease Research

Ana de Barros, PhD avatar

by Ana de Barros, PhD |

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MJFF 23andMe

The Michael J. Fox Foundation (MJFF) and personal genetics company 23andMe will together gather genetic data for Parkinson’s disease research through the MJFF’s Fox Insight platform.

MJFF will provide an undisclosed amount of funding for 23andMe researchers — using genetic data collected from 2009 to 2017 through the company’s Parkinson’s research community — to gain new genotypic and phenotypic insights about the disease.

The collaboration includes a series of pilot initiatives to explore several uses of genetic data for scientific discovery. According to the MJFF, these collaborations include:

  • 23andMe Community Analyses – the objective of this initiative is to use data collected through the 23andMe Parkinson’s community to gain genotypic and phenotypic insights. The project will explore physical characteristics of the disease, identify potential disease subtypes and identify potential gene-environment interactions that may be central to Parkinson’s development.
  • Medical Records – the aim of this project is to explore the collection of electronic medical records and other data, and their potential for use in conjunction with the 23andMe Parkinson’s community to assess if participants are willing to share their medical records, if it’s cost-effective to collect these data, and if they bring any additional value to existing datasets.
  • Microbiome Pilot Study – grounding on evidence suggesting that Parkinson’s alters gut bacteria, this pilot study will evaluate the viability and value of microbiome sample collection and analysis from the 23andMe Parkinson’s community. Objectives include determining feasibility of sample collection, assessing the viability of replicating reported microbiome differences in Parkinson’s versus healthy controls, and correlating potential microbiome composition differences in Parkinson’s against several distinct phenotypic/genotypic features.
  • Off-label Drug Use Survey – this survey will ask the 23andMe Parkinson’s community for insight on use and access to off-label drugs for Parkinson’s treatment.

Studies of the correlation between Parkinson’s and genetics have been on the rise recently, as shown by the increasing number of research projects focusing on the topic.

Findings from one of these studies, partially funded by the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research, appeared in the October 2017 issue of The Lancet Neurology.

The study, “Large-scale identification of clinical and genetic predictors of Parkinson’s disease motor progression in newly-diagnosed patients: a longitudinal cohort study and validation,” found genetic and molecular markers of quicker motor decline in Parkinson’s patients through a computer model of disease progression.

Overall, researchers identified a novel and Parkinson’s-specific genetic interaction between the LINGO2 gene and a second genetic variant that might predict faster motor degeneration.

MJFF’s Fox Insight is a patient-powered research platform with three main goals: contribute with real-life, patient-reported data about health-related experiences from those with and without Parkinson’s in diverse ways; to build a community, through sharing information and taking down barriers to research participation; and to direct research, contributing with the collected data to inform the scientific community, allowing advances in unmet needs, therapeutic priorities and trial design.

Those registering with Fox Insight will be asked to provide health-related information through a series of questionnaires on health-related topics. The platform currently has more than 12,000 participants and 24,000 study visits. Register for Fox Insight here.

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