Chronic illness focus of studies based on veteran health data

Genetic and health data will play a large role in new studies by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to better understand some of the most pressing chronic illnesses veterans face.

The four new studies will focus on heart disease, kidney disease and substance use, according to an announcement from the VA. The initiatives are part of the VA's Million Veteran Program (MVP), which runs a database that links genetic, clinical and lifestyle data from more than 390,000 vets.

The new research will specifically include "the understudied African American and Hispanic Veteran populations," the VA adds.

The studies also tie into President Obama's Precision Medicine Initiative, and will create new ways to link data from the program with other sources, such as the Centers for Medicaid & Medicare Services.

The National Institutes of Health also is looking to take advantage of the MVP's database and is "actively in conversations with" the VA to access the information, FierceHealthcare previously reported.

For one of the new studies, at the Atlanta VA Medical Center, researchers will look at the genes that influence the impact obesity and lipid levels have on heart disease. Another will focus on using data to uncover the genetic risk factors for chronic use of alcohol, tobacco and other substances.

Genomics is "on par with or the most demanding ... in terms of data acquisition, storage, distribution and analysis," according to the authors of a research paper at PLOS Biology.

To learn more:
- here's the announcement

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