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Kaiser Permanente, UCSF Complete DNA Data Gathering

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Researchers at health care provider Kaiser Permanente and University of California at San Francisco completed the genomic analysis of more than 100,000 older Kaiser Permanente members, the first phase of their project to better understand the genetic makeup of their patients. The NIH-funded research aims to provide scientists with high-quality, genetic data on a large and diverse population.

The project had as its first major milestone to extract and determine the genetic makeup of DNA — called genotyping — from 100,000 participants with an average age of 65. In this part of the study, researchers also measured the length of participants’ telomeres, the tiny units of DNA that bind the ends of chromosomes. Telomere length may reflect the degree of aging in a person’s cells and act as a marker for age-related conditions.

The researchers plan to link the results of the genotyping and telomere length analysis to a range of California environmental data and to current and historical health-related information. Kaiser Permanente maintains these health care data in participant surveys and the company’s electronic health records.

Genetic information from the project will also include data about drug metabolism and drug response, which may help researchers discover genetic factors that explain differences in the way people respond to medications. This understanding would then help doctors prescribe to patients better medicines for them individually, with less trial and error, based on their genetic backgrounds.

The data could as well help researchers understand why some patients with conditions such as cancer or heart disease develop certain symptoms and other patients do not. These insights that can lead to new treatments and, in some cases, new ways to lessen the severity of or even prevent disease.

Kaiser Permanente’s Research Program on Genes, Environment, and Health is designed to encourage epidemiologic studies of both genetic and environmental influences on common health conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes, cancer, asthma, and mental health disorders. The program has so far enrolled more than 188,000 members in northern California and plans to enroll a total of 500,000 Kaiser Permanente members by 2014.

Read more: Consumers Want, Will Pay for Predictive Health Tests

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