How a first-of-its-kind DNA study in Florida could help identify disease risk

AdventHealth doctors conduct genomic screenings

By Ezzy Castro - Reporter

ORLANDO, Fla. - Researchers at AdventHealth's Transitional Research Institute in Orlando are hoping to find out how genomics can help decrease health issues such as high cholesterol and heart attacks. 

They are doing it with a first-of-its-kind DNA study in Florida called "WholeMe."

"Genomics is really the study of a larger genomic variance. Those variances can either increase the risk for a disease, they can change how people respond to different medication," Dr. Steven Smith, an AdventHealth researcher, said. 

During the study, 10,000 Floridians who have familial hypercholesterolemia, also known as FH, whill be screened. FH is a life-threatening genetic condition that causes high cholesterol.

If left untreated, FH can lead to cardiovascular disease, including heart attacks in young adults. 

News 6 went behind the scenes on Thursday and got a look of the laboratory where the research takes place.

"These studies complement the other screening tests that we do in the clinic,' Smith said. "So, for example, getting your blood cholesterol measured and we often find that people that have high cholesterol may have a family history of high cholesterol." 

The importance of genomics in the future of medicine was highlighted this past summer when AdventHealth partnered with a California-based personal genomics company called Helix. 

Doctors are hoping people in Central Florida will be able to volunteer to help with the study. 

"This will not be a flash in the pan and move on. This is a fully committed initiative within the hospital and we are excited about what the future is going to hold for our patients and our community, " Smith said.

Participants will be able to learn about other traits that may affect their health, such as lactose and gluten intolerance, magnesium and calcium levels.

The study is open to adults who are 18 years or older. If you wish to participate you can go to WholeMeFlorida.com.

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