23andMe Tests NFL Players’ DNA for Athletic Genetic Factors
October 13, 2009
Personal Genetics Company’s Research Reported in ESPN The Magazine’s “Cheating is so 1999” – on Newsstands
Mountain View, Calif. – 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.”
23andMe, Inc., headquartered in Sunnyvale, CA, is a leading consumer genetics and research company. Founded in 2006, the company’s mission is to help people access, understand, and benefit from the human genome. 23andMe has pioneered direct access to genetic information as the only company with multiple FDA clearances for genetic health reports. The company has created the world’s largest crowdsourced platform for genetic research, with 80% of its customers electing to participate. The 23andMe research platform has generated more than 180 publications on the genetic underpinnings of a wide range of diseases. The platform also powers the 23andMe Therapeutics group, currently pursuing drug discovery programs rooted in human genetics across a spectrum of disease areas, including oncology, respiratory, and cardiovascular diseases, in addition to other therapeutic areas. More information is available at www.23andMe.com.