VA Seeks DNA of 1 Million Veterans

VA’s Office of Research and Development has launched the Million Veteran Program (MVP) in which they are seeking the participation of 1 million Veterans to help study genes and health.

Participants will: complete a survey about health and health-related behaviors; provide a blood sample (including DNA and other matters); complete an optional health assessment; allow secure access to VA medical records, current and future; and allow future contact.

MVP is interested in genetic research because it is believed that genes play a role in why some people, but not others, develop certain diseases and that they affect responses to different medications and treatments.  The researchers will collect DNA and health information to learn what genes are linked to what health traits.

Researchers are only interested in a very small portion of DNA – less than one percent.  The researchers believe a better understanding of genes can help prevent disease and improve disease treatment.

One goal of genetic research is to develop “personalized medicine.”  For instance, doctors already use a genetic test to predict how a patient will respond to an anticlotting drug.  The genetic research has helped doctors provide the right amount of medicine the first time without adjustments.

The program is entirely voluntary and will not affect the Veteran’s benefits or access to health care in any way.  In fact, there is no direct benefit to any of the participants, though many see it as another opportunity to serve their country.

In an effort to protect confidentiality, VA says that the medical records will be connected to the genetic information only after the Veteran’s name has been removed from the record.

At the end of 2011, VA began to request participation.  Early reports are that it only takes a few minutes to provide the blood sample and less than 20 minutes to complete the questionnaire.

Almost 51,000 Veterans have already agreed to participate. There are 40 VA medical centers involved.  VA hopes to reach the 1 million mark in 5 to 7 years.

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