Boxing legend Muhammad Ali, who has Parkinson’s disease, has teamed up with 23andMe, a leading personal genetics company, in its Parkinson’s Disease Research Initiative to enroll 10,000 individuals with Parkinson’s disease (PD) to participate in research.
Individuals in this online community are helping to advance research in Parkinson’s by completing online surveys and sharing their genetic data with researchers. 23andMe’s Parkinson’s Disease Research Initiative also serves as a community for individuals and families affected by the disease to connect with each other.
With Muhammad Ali participating along with more than 6,500 other individuals who have Parkinson’s, 23andMe now has the world’s largest cohort of Parkinson’s patients participating in research. While Lonnie Ali does not have Parkinson’s disease, her DNA and answers to research surveys can be just as helpful to researchers in better understanding the genetics of Parkinson’s. The Alis have worked with 23andMe to create an inspirational video to encourage others with Parkinson’s disease to participate in 23andMe’s research efforts titled, “Give Us Your Hand”.
“Using our genetics, 23andMe is getting to the basis of what causes this illness, why some people get it, and why some people don’t,” said Lonnie Ali. “Anyone out there who has Parkinson’s disease, I urge you to participate.”
In addition to participating in the thriving Parkinson’s community, anyone who has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s by a physician can join the initiative and receive a free 23andMe Personal Genome Service. This service includes a report on genetic factors associated with Parkinson’s as well as regular updates about new genetic discoveries and how those discoveries apply to them. Participants can also access personalized reports on what their DNA reveals about 235 other traits and conditions, or dig into their roots using a variety of ancestry features offered by 23andMe.
“It’s an honor to have Muhammad and Lonnie Ali join our Parkinson’s Disease Research Initiative,” said Anne Wojcicki, CEO of 23andMe. “Muhammad is a legend and it’s wonderful to have him helping us pioneer a novel, consumer-driven approach to research. By bringing thousands of individuals together online, we hope to make significant discoveries that will impact Muhammad’s life and others with Parkinson’s.”
23andMe published a research paper in June 2011 detailing our discovery of two novel genetic associations with Parkinson’s. 23andMe also identified a genetic factor in a gene called SGK1 that may protect against the disease. With generous support from The Michael J. Fox Foundation, 23andMe has partnered with The Scripps Research Institute to further study the connection between SGK1 and a Parkinson’s risk gene called LRRK2 in hopes of finding new treatments for Parkinson’s disease.
The “Give Us Your Hand” video featuring Muhammad and Lonnie Ali debuted at the celebrity-packed Power of Love Gala in Las Vegas on February 18, 2012. The Gala was a 70th birthday celebration for Muhammad Ali and a fundraiser for the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health and the Muhammad Ali Center.