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Opinion
Ormond Beach Observer Tuesday, Oct. 22, 2019 3 weeks ago

I joined a DNA study

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AdventHealth has launched WholeMe, a DNA study in partnership with Helix, that will sequence 10,000 Florida resident's DNA for genes linked to FH. This is why I decided to take part.
by: Jarleene Almenas News Editor

DNA is a fascinating subject. 

How something so small can hold so much information is mind-blowing, and I know I'm not the only one who is curious about it. DNA testing has spiked in popularity in the last few years or so with the use of at-home testing kits like AncestryDNA and 23andMe. The kits strive to answer one of the questions I'd say most of us are interested: Where did I come from?

One question I hadn't thought about was, "how does my DNA affect my health?"

Back in July, AdventHealth announced the launch of WholeMe, advertised as the "first-of-its-kind" DNA study in the state. The hospital is partnering with Helix, a personal genomics company from California, to sequence 10,000 people's DNA to screen for genes linked to familial hypercholesterolemia, also known as FH. This is a life-threatening genetic condition that causes high cholesterol, and if left untreated, could lead to cardiovascular disease, an AdventHealth release stated. 

The study's participants will also learn about ancestry traits and 22 other genetic traits. Among those, odd ones like whether or not the taste of cilantro offends you, how sweet your sweet tooth really is and if you have a tendency to tan or get a sunburn caught my attention. I'm also hoping the study tells me I'm a teensy-percent Italian so I can justify the four years I've studied the language and culture, and the incomplete UCF minor in the language under my belt. (I needed to graduate!)

So I joined the 10,000 people in the free study. On Monday,  Oct. 21, I spit into a little test tube in a room full of people at AdventHealth Daytona. It was just as awkward as you can imagine, even if you were in a little curtained area. 

They also had lemons everywhere, because apparently lemons increase your salivation production. Who knew?

But, what happens if you find out you have the genes for FH at the end of the study? AdventHealth will complete a confirmatory blood test and schedule you for one session with a genetic counselor. You'll also be . connected with a cardiologist for preventative measures. 

For me, that's a benefit, especially if you believe that knowledge is power. Though appointments at AdventHealth Daytona will only be held until Oct. 23, people still wanting to participate in the study can drive to AdventHealth Celebration from October 27- Nov. 1,  or to AdventHealth Orlando from Nov. 4-21 for a WholeMe appointment. The study is open to all adults living in Florida. Visit WholeMeFlorida.com to register, or for more information.

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