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Kaiser Genotypes 100,000 Members

Margaret Dick Tocknell, for HealthLeaders Media, July 25, 2011

The first phase has been completed of a massive genomics project that could help scientists identify why some people get diseases like cancer and others do not.

More than 100,000 Kaiser Permanente members volunteered to contribute their saliva for DNA and chromosome testing for the project that is expected to accelerate research into conditions such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancers, mental health disorders, and age-related diseases such as Alzheimer's disease.

Between 600,000 and 900,000 genomic regions were genotyped for each saliva sample and length of chromosome tips or telomeres were also analyzed. The collected data will eventually be made available to other scientists.

What makes the research unique is that participants have been Kaiser Permanente patients for 15 to 20 years. That means genomic information can be linked to long-term medical records. And since researchers will be able to follow participants as long as they remain with the Kaiser system, so they will be able to assess whether DNA can predict the likelihood of developing certain diseases.

Neil Risch, co-director of Kaiser Permanente's Research Program on Genes, Environment and Health said the information has an almost unlimited potential. "We could learn how the environment affects chronic disease, why people respond to some medicines and not to others, or why diseases progress in different ways indifferent people," he explained in a telephone interview.

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