Valley DNA samples collected as part of future medical research program

2 months 3 weeks 6 hours ago Saturday, March 18 2023 Mar 18, 2023 March 18, 2023 12:52 PM March 18, 2023 in News - Local

A recently wrapped DNA collection program conducted in the Valley could help find ways to treat and prevent diseases, federal researchers said.

The National Institutes of Health’s All of Us Research Program, a federal genetic database, also will return health-related genetic results to participants who choose to receive them.

According to Benito Escobedo — the program’s mobile lab manager — the research is building a more accurate snapshot of the U.S. Population.

Previously, genetic research was based on white, European DNA data.

“Just to overall create that diversity,” Escobedo said. “We do test out for 59 genes, so if there's a certain disease in those part of the genes, it could come out and emerge in the future."

More than 600 DNA samples were collected from the Valley.

“It's our first time down here in the Valley, we are very surprised with the turnout,” Escobedo said.

The All of Us DNA database now has about 620,000 samples that has led to more than 4,000 ongoing research projects.

Nearly 100 of projects those are trying to learn more about type 2 diabetes. Valley diabetes educator Ileana Martinez said the condition affects up to 40% of the population in the Rio Grande Valley.

“A lot of times the complications are the ones that lead to death,” Martinez said.

A wider, more diverse genetic database is something researchers want to use more, according to Edgar Gil Rico, the National Alliance for Hispanic Health director for innovation.

“It's already telling us something new,” Rico said. “Should we explore why? Why is that difference? Are you higher risk because you were born here? Does your risk increase with time when you live in the U.S.? Those are things we haven't explored, we haven't answered. We haven't maybe asked those questions because we didn't have data."

Those questions will help populations understand their health, with the mobile clinic getting a better picture of the country.

To participate in the program, click here. 

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