“Cheating is so 1999” – on Newsstands
MOUNTAIN VIEW, CA – October 13, 2009 – 23andMe, Inc., an industry leader in personal genetics, conducted the genetic analysis of both former and current NFL players, as well as scientific controls, to investigate how genes impact athletic performance. Over 100 players were recruited for the study, the largest genetic examination ever conducted on professional American athletes. It was performed as a result of discussions with senior writer Shaun Assael of ESPN The Magazine and the Buck Institute and its president Jim Kovach, a former Saints linebacker. The Buck Institute is recognized as the country’s leading independent research institute devoted to age research and chronic disease. Results were reported by Assael in the latest issue of ESPN The Magazine, on newsstands now.
Researchers at the Duke University Institute for Genome Sciences & Policy, the Stanford University School of Medicine and 23andMe teamed up with the Buck Institute to do the study. In a “GWAS” (Genome Wide Association Study) comparing NFL “pros” to “Joes,” 23andMe initially looked for variants associated with athletic prowess using the players’ raw genetic data obtained from 23andMe testing. The study did not find the tested players to be genetic outliers, suggesting that genetics may not be a good predictor of athletic success.
The researchers then investigated a specific list of genes in the players associated with athletic ability and longevity, including grip power, oxygen-carrying capacity and injury risk. For example, mutations in the gene COL1A1 (which is responsible for the manufacture of collagen, the protein that keeps ligaments strong) have been associated with a reduced risk of ACL tears in limited previous research. Knowledge about an individual’s COL1A1 type could in the future allow athletes to better understand their risk of knee injury.
The genetic traits examined in the sample of NFL players are not part of 23andMe’s direct-to-consumer service, but speak to the breadth of the genetic research the company is undertaking.
“This was a unique opportunity to take on an innovative research idea using our platform and working collaboratively with two outstanding academic institutions, Duke and Stanford” said Anne Wojcicki, President and Co-Founder. “NFL players in addition to all our customers contribute to our research platform and help us make discoveries.” Wojcicki continued. “This study, our Parkinson’s Disease initiative, launched with the Michael J. Fox Foundation and the Parkinson’s Institute, and our Senior Games Genome Project, coordinated with the National Center for Senior Health and Fitness, are the first of what we hope will be many divergent and exciting research projects at 23andMe. We look forward to announcing more results soon.”