Leaping ahead: Understanding how genes influence disease

The National Institute of Health (NIH) just launched a program that will, for decades to come, help elucidate how genes influence (and perhaps cause) disease. This new program will fund the decoding of genomes for people with diseases ranging from cystic fibrosis to autism to diabetes. The NIH is targeting decoding between 150,000 to 200,000 patients’ genetic codes. This is great science. It is the type of research that allows for tremendous advances.

For comparison and perspective, a rough equivalent of this study began almost 70 years ago (in 1948 to be precise): the The Framingham Heart Study. The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute began this 5,000 person cardiovascular study in the town of Framingham, CT. This still ongoing study identified cigarette smoking, high blood pressure and high cholesterol as risk factors for heart disease – it provided the foundation of what we now accept as common knowledge on the subject of heart disease.

I could not be more pleased that this science is underway. Exciting stuff.


Sources: Framingham Heart Study (Wikipedia); NIH genome sequencing program targets the genomic bases of common, rare diseases (National Institutes of Health)

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