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Million Veteran Program Achieves Milestone with One Millionth Veteran Enrolled in Genetic Database

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The millionth vet joined the database on the afternoon of Nov. 11. Employees who had waited a dozen years for this second wept.

As the objective approached, the division had began an intensive e-mail marketing campaign, encouraging vets to enroll on-line or at V.A. medical facilities. In the few weeks constructing as much as the millionth vet, what had been just a few hundred enrollees a day changed into 1000’s. The division created a ticker, which it posted on-line, displaying the numbers.

“This is a gift to the world,” stated Denis McDonough, secretary of veterans affairs.

The V.A. will proceed to enroll extra vets to the database, however this was a symbolic second.

For years, researchers have been constructing giant databases for genetic analysis. Using them they’ve discovered, for instance, genes that seem to confer resistance to dementia and ones that almost certainly contribute to weight problems. The discoveries present paths to understanding these ailments and growing therapies.

There are different giant genetic databases, however they’ve largely been inbuilt Europe and embody few minorities. The V.A. says its database gives a extra numerous inhabitants: 175,000 folks with African ancestry and 80,000 Hispanics joined the Million Veteran Program. The database additionally consists of 100,000 girls.

“It’s a massive investment and scientific opportunity,” stated Dr. Amit V. Khera, a genetic researcher at Massachusetts General Hospital. He just isn’t a V.A. researcher, however he has used the information via collaborations with researchers who’re affiliated with the division.

As the database acquired individuals, about 600 V.A. researchers registered to make use of it. The end result to date has been greater than 350 papers on ailments and issues, together with post-traumatic stress dysfunction, coronary heart illness, hypertension and nonalcoholic liver illness.

For instance, stated Dr. Sumitra Muralidhar, director of the Million Veteran Program, researchers discovered genes linked to having flashbacks of traumatic occasions, a characteristic of post-traumatic stress. Now, Dr. Muralidhar stated, investigators can research these genes and the position they play, which can assist in growing therapies for PTSD.

The division additionally says it’s being conscious of affected person privateness. Although researchers can look at genetic and different information and hyperlinks to medical data, fewer than 10 folks on the V.A. have the hyperlinks that tie data to people. Those data, Dr. Muralidhar stated, are held at a facility in Boston that’s “heavily secured.”

In 2019, a nurse at a V.A. hospital instructed Octavia Harris, 60, of San Antonio, in regards to the Million Veteran Program. She signed up and stated collaborating was an opportunity to assist different vets and to assist herself.

Ms. Harris, who retired from the Navy in 2012 after 30 years of service, stated three situations run in her household — diabetes, hypertension and arthritis. She is hoping that along with her genetic and well being data added to that of so many others, researchers will make helpful discoveries.

In her household, Ms. Harris stated, folks died younger.

“We haven’t lived beyond the age of 70,” she stated. “I want to go past 70.”

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