'Google family' cells fight Parkinson's

March 27, 2011 at 6:59 PM
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SUNNYVALE, Calif., March 27 (UPI) -- Cells from Google co-founder Sergey Brin's mother are helping fight Parkinson's disease, Stanford University researchers say.

Genia Brin, who has the degenerative neurological disorder, has donated skin cells from her arm to the effort, the San Jose Mercury News reports.

The cells were reprogrammed using stem cell techniques and turned into neurons.

"For the first time ever, we have them in a dish where we can study them directly. We can see exactly why they're dying, and test drugs in them," said William Langston of the Parkinson's Institute.

Most forms of the disease are not genetic, but one mutation accounts for much of familial Parkinson's disease. It was found in Brin using a test made by 23andMe, co-founded by her daughter-in-law, Anne Wojcicki. Brin had felt mild symptoms, and knew her aunt had been afflicted. Sergey Brin also has the markers.

The research was reported in the journal Cell by Stanford's Renee Reijo Pera.

Research had been difficult because only humans get Parkinson's and cells cannot be extracted from deep inside the brains of living patients.

But by inserting genes into skin cells, scientists can make them revert to an embryonic state and then turn them into neurons.

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