The Veterans Administration’s https://www.research.va.gov Million Veteran Program (MVP), one of the world’s largest databases with health and genetic information, has racial ethnic diversity in its enrollment.
Today, with more than 830,000 enrolled and climbing toward one million and beyond, means that there are more opportunities to research groups that have been traditionally under-represented in the medical community The MVP has an enrollment for African Americans at 20%, Hispanics at 8%, Native Americans and Asian Americans are both at 1% to 2%.
Many diseases disproportionately affect racial and ethnic minorities at a higher rate, such as prostate cancer, chronic kidney disease, heart disease, and diabetes in the black community. In addition, there are racial and ethnic inequities in obtaining access to healthcare for socioeconomic and other reasons.
Dr. Saiju Pyarajan, at the VA Boston Healthcare System led the design of the DNA Chip which is a custom designed tool which MVP will use to expand genetic research The DNA Chip promises to speed breakthroughs to benefit Black and Hispanic veterans and other racial and ethnic minorities. This DNA Chip tests for more than 750,000 genetic variants, including over 300,000 that are more common in minority populations and are relevant to their health and well-being.
When DNA is extracted from a person via a blood sample, it is added onto the chip in a test tube with special instruments. Only DNA with a complementary chemical code will bind to the chip. The rest is washed away. The researchers are then able to identify genetic variants in DNA.
The tool will help researchers learn more about conditions, such as cancer, diabetes, and heart disease in diverse groups and then develop targeted treatments. Dr. Sumitra Muralidhar, Director, MVP said, “MVP’s goal is to bridge gaps that exist in racial and ethnic populations to make the research relevant across the board.”