NIH Launched All of Us Research Program



The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has launched a research program called All of Us. It is a historic effort to gather data from one million or more people who live in the United States. The goal is to accelerate research and improve health. By taking into account individual differences in lifestyle, environment, and biology, researchers will uncover paths toward delivering precision medicine.

One of the reasons that genealogists take direct-to-consumer DNA tests is to discover more relatives. The other reason is to learn about their health. There are good reasons to put together a medical family tree that includes information about your relative’s and ancestor’s health issues. Sometimes, there are conditions that run in the family that can be prevented.

The All of Us research program is a key element of the Precision Medicine Initiative (PMI), which launched in 2016. The All of Us research program seeks to extend precision medicine to all diseases by building a national research cohort of one million or more U.S. participants. Many factors have converged to make now the right time to begin a program of this scale and scope.

Scientific opportunities of this project include:

* Develop ways to measure risk for a range of diseases based on environmental exposures, genetic factors and interactions between the two

* Identify causes of individual differences in response to commonly used drugs (commonly refereed to as pharmacogenomics)

* Discover biological markers that signal increased or decreased risk of developing common diseases

* Use mobile health (mHealth) technologies to correlate activity, physiological measures and environmental exposures with health outcomes

* Develop new disease classifications and relationships

* Empower study participants with data and information to improve their own health

* Create a platform to enable trials of targeted therapies

Smithsonian.com has an informative article that points out that scientists are eager to start working on targeted cancer therapies, and on personalized drugs that will work according to the patient’s genetic makeup. The need for the All of Us research project was summarized this way:

“There’s a big problem, however: the data we have is too white. The vast majority of participants in worldwide genomics research are of European descent. This disparity could potentially leave out minorities from benefiting from the windfall of precision medicine.”

In the article, Jacquelyn Taylor, associate professor in nursing who researchers health equity at New York University, points out something important. “It’s hard to tailor treatments for people’s unique needs, if the people who are suffering from those diseases aren’t included in the studies.”

Related Articles at FamilyTree.com:

* How a DNA Typo Led Sonia Vallbh to the White House

* 23andMe has a Populations Collaborations Program

* Create Your Medical Family Tree

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