Veterans: Uncle Sam Wants Your DNA - NBC Bay Area

Veterans: Uncle Sam Wants Your DNA

Researchers say the information will benefit not just veterans but all Americans. The program hopes to collect a million samples of DNA from veterans in the next five to seven years.



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    Veterans have answered the call on many fronts. This time it is their genetic blueprint.

    The Veterans Administration is hoping there will be power in numbers which is why it has launched the Million Veteran Program.  It hopes to collect DNA samples from veterans for a new research project. The goal is for scientists to learn more about how genes affect our health. 

    For example, why do some vets develop post traumatic stress disorder ( PTSD) and others in the same combat situation don’t? 

    So far, more than 500 Bay Area veterans have provided blood samples for the program. Scientists will then study their DNA to learn more about genetic markers for everything from Alzheimers Disease to schizophrenia.

    Cate Bowen served as an Army nurse at Travis Air Force Base and Andrews Air Force Base for six years. She felt compelled to share here genetic blueprint.

    “I am a female veteran and I think it is important to include women in the research. I think my contribution to the million will lead to better research," said Bowen.

    Nationwide more than 11,000 veterans have enrolled in the voluntary program. 

    “We hope to get to a million samples to analyze data across a variety of disorders and ages so we can understand why some vets get disorders and others don’t and understand how the risk for diseasE interacts with experiences,” said Dr. Jennifer Hobilyn is the Associate Director of the VA Palo Alto Bipolar and Depression Research Program. 

    Veterans personal information will not be identified with their sample.

    Dr. Joel Kupersmith, Chief Research and Development Officer  with the Department of Veterans affairs said the  information from the Million Veteran Program may also one day help us understand more about the role genes play in the development of diabetes , heart disease and mental disorders.