Courting your genes

Four in five Americans support the idea of a nationwide study to investigate the interactions of genes, environment and lifestyle, and three in five say they would be willing to take part in such a study, according to a survey released recently by the Genetics & Public Policy Center at Johns Hopkins University.

Jeffrey Bouley
WASHINGTON, D.C.—Four in five Americans support the idea of a nationwide study to investigate the interactions of genes, environment and lifestyle, and three in five say they would be willing to take part in such a study, according to a survey released recently by the Genetics & Public Policy Center at Johns Hopkins University. But it turns out that a significant number of them might hinge their participation on whether they receive their genetic results afterward.

"Our survey found that widespread support exists in the general public for a large, genetic cohort study," says David Kaufman, lead author of the paper and project director at the center. "What's more, we found little variation in that support among different demographic groups."

When asked about their support for and willingness to participate in a large genetic cohort study, 84 percent of respondents supported the study and 60 percent indicated they would definitely or probably participate in such a study if asked.

According to the survey's results, the factors with the greatest impact on willingness to participate were a commitment to returning research results to individual volunteers, and an offer of compensation. Three in four respondents said they would be less likely to participate if they could not receive their individual research results.

"When courting people who have seen the promise of genetic testing advertised and who now know that similar test results are commercially available, entities doing pharmacogenetic drug discovery should be prepared to offer some sort of genetic research results," Kaufman suggests. "However, if this is not possible or practical, our research also shows that a small amount of compensation for peoples' time may produce the same effect." DDN

Jeffrey Bouley

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