The Veterans Heath Administration now has the world’s largest genomic database. VA has collected 500,000 samples from U.S. military Veterans to aid in gene-based research of conditions such as cancer, diabetes and PTSD to develop future treatments and possible cures for these illnesses and others.
The voluntary project, called the Million Veteran Program, or MVP, started in 2011 and hit a half-million participants last month. No other medical research facility has ever had such a massive data set in this field.
The program aims to help doctors understand the genetic component of why some patients respond to treatment, why others don’t and whether some people are more prone to illnesses.
MVP allows Veterans the opportunity to donate a blood sample and agree to answer follow-up surveys that track their military experiences, health, and lifestyle.
At the San Diego VA, one of 52 different sites doing collection, there are already more than 14,000 participants. Even VA Secretary Bob McDonald joined the innovative research program earlier this year as the 441,196th Veteran to participate.
VA’s goal of enrolling 1 million veterans over the program’s five- to seven-year span is part of its latest push to be the leading genomics research center in the world.
Research using Million Veteran Program data is already underway and VA researchers are already using it to study mental illness, heart and kidney disease, and that’s just the beginning. In addition to developing new treatments and cures, the research will also allow for early detection and specialized treatment based on one’s genetic background.
You can find out more about the Million Veterans Program online at va.gov. Veterans who are users of the VA health care system at one of the enrolling sites are able to participate at this time. Once a site is open for enrollment, Veterans who are users of the VA health care system at that site will receive an invitation by mail to volunteer for MVP. If you are a Veteran who receives health care at an enrolling site but have not received a mailing, you can schedule an appointment by calling toll-free 1-866-441-6075, or walk-in to your local MVP clinic to participate today (directions to the clinics can be found by clicking on a site here). To learn more about what participation involves, click here or call the toll-free number.
Chris Wilson is a third year Cadet at the United States Military Academy at West Point where he is studying international relations. Originally from New Orleans, he is currently on an Advanced Individual Academic Development program at the VA’s central office in Washington, D.C. He is preparing to commission into the infantry upon graduation and serve in the 82nd Airborne Division.