The Department of Veterans Affairs has started a massive project to compile a bank of genetic information on at least 1 million former military service members that could help develop new treatments for medical conditions and diseases.
Nearly 51,000 veterans have agreed to provide their medical records and blood samples for the project, which the Baltimore Sun www.baltimoresun.com/health/bs-hs-million-veteran-program-20120204,0,1502812.story reported on Monday may be one of the largest of its kind in the United States.
The mission is to collect enough DNA and other medical data to “link specific genes to mental and physical maladies” ranging from post-traumatic stress disorder to heart disease, according to the Sun. Researchers said the information could help develop new treatments or preventive measures.
Dr. Joel Kupersmith, the VA’s chief research and development officer, told the newspaper the project would likely not benefit those who participate. But he said both male and female veterans are signing up because they believe their contributions now could help others in the future.
“Vets are very altruistic people and they’re likely to help if you tell them it will benefit someone else,” Kupersmith told the Sun.
The VA system has plenty of potential to produce beneficial results, given the fact that the system already has 8 million people enrolled who have all kinds of health or service-related disorders, Kupersmith said. Nearly all of them have electronic medical records dating back at least 15 years.
Roughly half of the 51,000 who have signed up at about 40 VA centers around the country have been in to give blood and to answer questions, according to the Sun. The goal is to collect information and samples from 1 million participants within five to seven years, although studies are expected to begin immediately that could produce results before then.
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