Wanted: Volunteers to donate DNA for advancement of personal health care

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NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — Volunteers are being sought to donate DNA for research into the advancement of personal health care as part of the first large-scale genome sequencing initiative in the United States.

Weill Cornell Medicine, NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, and Illumina, Inc. are teaming up to make medical care more targeted and precise by hunting for disease-causing mutations in DNA.

"The genome is very big, it has more than 3 billion nucleotides, this is kind of the building block of the genomes, and there are lots of mutations that can occur pretty much anywhere in the genome," said Dr. Olivier Elemento, director of the Englander Institute for Precision Medicine at Weill Cornell Medicine. "So the challenge of genomic medicine is to find a mutations that's in a particular disease and provide a better way to diagnose this disease or to match patients to individualized treatment."

Doctors will take a person's genome sequence and analyze it for genetic alterations.

"There's a lot of drugs that are targeting the mutation that drive individual cancers and we know that every patient is different," said Dr. Elemento. "When two patients with breast are diagnosed, when we look at that DNA we realize that often they have quite different DNA. The mutations that drive a disease are quite different from each other so we're really trying to push the envelope in terms of this idea of personalized medicine driven by DNA."

In addition to cancer, doctors hope the genome sequence will help in the treatment of cardiovascular, metabolic and neurodegenerative diseases.