Why You Matter
By participating, you can help us better understand, treat, and even prevent the diseases that might affect your health and the health of future generations. With more participants like you, researchers can study the unique contribution of our genes, lifestyle, and family history to human disease.
Many types of research may be done with your samples. Some studies may do genetic research to look at your DNA and genes, including an examination of genetic variants. Others may look at proteins and other products made by your body. Some studies may only be interested in your lifestyle habits, medical history, or environmental exposures.
In order to allow researchers to share research results, agencies such as the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and others, have developed secure information and specimen banks that collect and store research data and samples from genetic studies. These central banks may share this information with approved researchers to do more studies. Genetic samples and results given to the central banks will not contain your name or other information that directly identifies you. There are many safeguards in place at these banks to protect your privacy.
How the Mass General Brigham Biobank Will Change Medical Care
Understanding a patient’s genetic make-up can be an early warning of disease for doctors. Based on what a patient’s genes reveal, physicians can screen more aggressively for diseases that their patients are predisposed to, and even develop plans to reduce the chances of developing specific diseases. Understanding genetic variants that affect a person’s chance of responding to a medication or having side effects or toxicity from a medication is called pharmacogenomics. Doctors can use pharmacogenomics to choose the best medications for individual patients. This is known as personalized medicine.
But our genes are not the only factors that play into whether or not we get diseases. Our individual lifestyles (such as how much we exercise and whether or not we smoke cigarettes) and the things we are exposed to in the areas that we live or work (air pollution, sun exposure etc.) can also increase or diminish our chances of disease, even if we already have the genes that make us susceptible.
All of these factors: genetics, lifestyle, and environment, interact to affect our health. A complete understanding of these risk factors can give doctors and patients the knowledge and power to make changes that are necessary to lead healthier, longer lives.
When physicians can understand the different kinds of risk present in their individual patients, our healthcare can focus on prevention instead of just treatment. This combination of prevention and personalized medicine is the ultimate goal of the Mass General Brigham Biobank. Genetic research will not only uncover what an individual’s DNA makes him or her susceptible to, it will also reveal lifestyle choices and environmental exposures that increase risk even further. Genetic research may also help physicians predict which treatments will be most helpful or cause the fewest side effects for each individual patient. This is powerful, innovative, and life-changing information that can transform the way our patients see and manage their own health.