Budgets have been a huge subject of conversation for anyone following government news the last few months. Within a budget there is always that ambiguous designation for “research and development.” We hardly ever hear about either one of these, and sometimes wonder if anything new has been developed in the last several years.
The VA is beginning a new research project that will hopefully boost our confidence a bit in our researchers. The last 60 years have provided incredible advances in the scientific knowledge about how the human body works and how genes and the different ways they encode our information affect and determine our health. Even with six decades of research there is still way more to learn that we know. The VA is in a unique position to conduct research on the relationships between genes and long term health.
On a purely voluntary basis, the VA will collect blood samples and health information from the millions of veterans to which it provides care. To ensure the security of the information and blood collected, all personally identifying information will be removed at the time of collection and replaced with a barcode. There will be no connection between the barcoded information and the veteran. Additionally, instead of shipping the blood samples and information to the researchers, the researchers will either come to the samples, or have access to the information gathered from them via a secure internet server.
The project is being organized by the VA Genomic Medicine Program Advisory Committee. Members of this committee are public and private medical experts, scientists, and legal experts in the field of genetics. The goal of the project is to combine the factors of military exposure, health, lifestyle, and genetics into one database, creating a pool of interconnecting data which will potentially reveal correlations between each of these different facets, with a focus on genetics. At a minimum, the project is set to last for the next five to seven years.
The original press release can be read here.
Photo thanks to Gravitywave under creative common license on Flickr.