ANN ARBOR (WWJ) – University of Michigan researchers have developed a Facebook app that lets users get in touch with their DNA.

The Genes for Good app, which was launched Tuesday, gives participants the chance to learn more about their health, behavior and ancestors. In return, those who fully participate provide genetics researchers with valuable data that can be used to better understand the origins of disease, which could lead one day to better treatments, prevention and cures.

“We think that finding these connections will help us and others develop better medicine and better treatments and understand disease,” U-M researcher Goncalo Abecasis told WWJ Health Reporter Dr. Deanna Lites.

To use the app, participants fill out various health and behavior surveys. Once a certain amount of data is submitted each participant is sent a spit kit to use to provide a saliva sample for genetic analysis.

Participants can choose to do the profile only, but those who provide a saliva sample will get information on ancestry and their genetic profile.

Researchers say even though they’re using a public program, personal information is secure. Everything is done through encryption directly with a secure University of Michigan server.

The data collected through various questionnaires and results from the saliva samples will give genetic researchers more information to build on existing data. Abecasis and his lab have been involved in numerous genetic studies, and their work has contributed to a better understanding of diabetes, heart disease, addiction, obesity, macular degeneration, psoriasis and more.

An eventual goal is to make the platform and resulting data widely available to the scientific community at no cost, so that others may develop new measures or new analyses. Personal identifiers, such as names and phone numbers, will not be shared.

For more information or to participate, click here.

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