Kaiser's newly expanded DNA database: 6 things to know

In efforts to develop cures and treatments for common chronic diseases, Kaiser Permanente is recruiting members nationwide to contribute their health data to its DNA database.

The Oakland, Calif.-based healthcare organization launched the database in 2008, collecting data from patients in California. Now, Kaiser Permanente plans to collect patient data from members in all seven of the health system's regions.

Here are six things to know about Kaiser Permanente's DNA database.

1. The Kaiser Permanente Research Bank stores genetic, molecular, environmental and other health information to help scientists and researchers better understand diseases and ultimately develop better cures and treatments.

2. The health system seeks to collect data from 500,000 members nationwide; currently 220,000 members are participating. The massive projected scale of the database could make it one of the world's largest repositories of health, genetic and environmental data, reports The Denver Post.

3. Sarah Rowell, associate director of KP Research Bank, said in a statement the difference between this database and others is it includes patient information beyond just health data. "One of the interesting things about the KP Research Bank is that in addition to DNA samples, we ask our participants about behavioral and environmental factors. That means we're able to connect this information with data from the patient's electronic medical record, which could allow us to make discoveries that just aren't possible with other research resources."

4. Gathering data from individuals across the country allows researchers to glean more nuanced, targeted insights. "The more data we have coming from different communities, the more representative the bank will be and allow us to look at all kinds of diseases," Cabell Jonas, regional operational leader of the KP Research Bank, told The Baltimore Sun. "We have such a diversity of members in Kaiser that we hope the bank will reflect the population."

5. This push for diversity in the KP Research Bank data also goes to serve historically underserved communities, according to Tiffany McDaniel, national community advisory board member of the research bank. Having a wider sampling provides researchers data on more rare diseases in addition to more common ones, and members living in underserved communities are providing critical information that could be beneficial for future communities. "By participating in [the research bank], people within these [underserved] communities can help researchers develop knowledge that may help one's children and grandchildren," Ms. McDaniel said in a KP statement. "The more diverse the pool of participants, the more the findings will apply and help those participants and people like them in their communities."

6. Any Kaiser Permanente member who is at least 18 years old and lives in the U.S. is eligible to participate and consent to share their health information with the Kaiser Permanente Research Bank. Participants will provide a blood sample and complete a health survey about their health and habits that may affect health.

Editor's note: A previous version of this article mispelled Cabell Jonas' name.

More articles on genomics:

9 questions about precision medicine, answered
Physicians offer patients little insight on their genomic testing results
What advances in genomic research mean for federal health IT

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