Scripps launches Apple ResearchKit app to study link between genetic risk, heart-healthy behaviors

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A team of researchers at Scripps Translational Science Institute and The Scripps Research Institute, both based in La Jolla, Calif., launched an app-based research study to improve heart health.

Coronary artery disease, a common heart condition, is caused by a combination of behavioral, environmental and genetic factors. With this background in mind, the researchers will investigate whether providing patients with personalized genetic risk information influences their decisions related to heart health.

For the study, the research team created a mobile app called MyGeneRank to calculate participants' estimated genetic risk score for coronary artery disease. They built MyGeneRank on Apple's ResearchKit, a smartphone platform that helps medical researchers gather data and enroll participants, and will calculate risk scores based on data from personal genomics and biotechnology company 23andMe.

After receiving their risk score, study participants will be asked to complete a set of surveys about their lifestyle habits. These habits might relate to exercise and nutrition, or use of cholesterol-lowering drugs like statins, among other behaviors, to reduce the risk of an adverse coronary event.

"We want to determine whether or not knowledge of genetic risk impacts decision-making when it comes to health behaviors or statin therapy," said Ali Torkamani, PhD, who leads the team behind MyGeneRank. Dr. Torkamani is the director of genomics at the Scripps Translational Science Institute and associate professor of integrative structural and computational biology at The Scripps Research Institute.

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