Mayo Clinic plans human DNA ‘biobank’

| January 18, 2009

Perhaps my DNA could be included in the biggest "biobank" in the country…

ROCHESTER, Minn. – Mayo Clinic researchers are planning to create a human DNA bank using samples from 20,000 area residents, and they say it could become the largest population-based "biobank" in the United States.

The goal is to help researchers find ways to personalize the way illnesses are treated and prevented, based on patients' genetic characteristics.

Only Mayo Clinic patients who volunteer and give expressed informed permission will be included.

"For it to be successful, we have to be able to have the cooperation of people willing to give DNA samples, coordinated with medical records," said Barbara Koenig, co-director of the Program in Professionalism and Bioethics at Mayo.

The biobank will not take volunteers until next year, and the Mayo Institutional Review Board must give final approval to the project.

Donating to the biobank won't be a one-time thing. An ongoing relationship will develop between the local participants and the biobank. For example, researchers might need to learn if a participant lives near a power pole.

The biobank also will ask participants for permission to make their samples and questionnaires "linkable" to their medical records.

"This is vital to study the effectiveness of treatments or prevention strategies over time. There is no other way to do this," Koenig said.

In addition to the population-based biobank, Mayo is planing three disease-specific biobanks focusing on mitochondrial DNA disorders, rare heart conditions and bipolar disorder.

"This is another form of philanthropy in my mind," said Mayo spokesman Bob Nellis, who's involved in planning how to ask for volunteers.

Category: General Healthcare News, Genetics

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