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Goncalo Abecasis
Goncalo Abecasis

Genetics research gets help from social media

Physician’s Weekly 6/17/19

Researchers have harnessed the power of social media to build a genetic database, according to a new report.

The “Genes for Good” project, which turned to Facebook to recruit people to fill out surveys and send in saliva samples for DNA analysis, has thus far collected data from more than 27,000 volunteers.

Participants come from all 50 states and from diverse ancestral backgrounds, the researchers write in The American Journal of Human Genetics.

“The data we get matches what’s come from traditional studies,” said study coauthor, Goncalo Abecasis, a professor at the University of Michigan School of Public Health and vice president for analytical genetics and data sciences at Regeneron Pharmaceuticals. “And we’ve been able to do a few things that are hard to do with data collected in the traditional way, such as track people over time.”

The researchers are hoping to discover the functions of various genes through the new database. “It would be nice to be able to figure out the functions of genes in humans rather than in mice,” Abecasis said.

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