The VA is Leading the Way on Genetic Research

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By Debbie Gregory.

Advances in genomics have triggered a revolution in discovery-based research to understand even the most complex biological systems. And with 500,000 samples collected from U.S. military Veterans, the Veterans Heath Administration now has the world’s largest genomic database. No other medical research facility has ever had such a massive data set in this field.

The voluntary project, called the Million Veteran Program, or MVP, started in 2011. The database will aid in gene-based research for conditions such as cancer, diabetes and PTSD.

The program aims to help doctors understand the genetic component of why some patients respond to treatment, why others don’t and whether some people are more prone to illnesses.

The MVP program has Veterans donate a blood sample and agree to answer follow-up surveys that track their military experiences, health, and lifestyle. VA Secretary Bob McDonald joined the program as the 441,196th Veteran to participate.

Now the VA is heading towards the goal of enrolling 1 million veterans over the program’s five- to seven-year span. The program is funded entirely by the Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Research & Development

Research is already underway, and VA researchers are using it to study mental illness, heart and kidney disease. The hoped for outcome is developing new treatments and cures, as well as allowing for early detection and specialized treatment based on one’s genetic background.

You can find out more about the Million Veterans Program online at http://www.research.va.gov/mvp/. While your participation may not immediately benefit you,  research findings may lead to new ways of preventing and treating illnesses in Veterans and all Americans in the future.

Veterans who are users of the VA health care system at one of the enrolling sites are able to participate at this time. MVP is rolling-out at VA medical centers across the nation. Once a site is open for enrollment, Veterans who are users of the VA health care system at that site will receive an invitation by mail to volunteer in MVP. If you are a Veteran who receives health care at an enrolling site but have not received a mailing, you can schedule an appointment by calling toll-free 1-866-441-6075, or walk-in to your local MVP clinic to participate today. To learn more about what participation involves, click here or call the toll-free number.

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