A Look At The Women's Genome Study

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A comprehensive map of the female genetic code is being charted right now thanks to 28-thousand women who donated their DNA a decade ago to groundbreaking study. Brigham and Women's Hospital, the National Institutes of Health and the biotechnology company Amgen Inc., will comb the DNA for differences between those who have developed serious illness and those who have remained healthy.

How many DNA variations will be collected?

The new initiative will look at 317,000 different variations from each person's DNA.

What is the medical goal of the analysis?

Researchers believe the results will eventually enable doctors to better predict a woman's risk for disease and to tailor more effective treatments.

Scientists have discovered the genetic causes of scores of rare, inherited disorders, including cystic fibrosis. But for most common diseases, the genetic risk factors still aren't known. Researchers hope the new approach will help because it permits broad, speedy searches in a person's DNA.

Will the results be made public?

Yes. Under the terms of the new project, called the Women's Health Genome Study, results describing associations between genes and diseases will be posted in a public database through the NIH and made available to any scientist interested in conducting further research.

What is the Human Genome Project?

The Human Genome Project, which was led at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) by the National Human Genome Research Institute, produced a very high-quality version of the human genome sequence.

The Human Genome Project was designed to generate a resource that could be used for a broad range of biomedical studies. One such use is to look for the genetic variations that increase risk of specific diseases, such as cancer, or to look for the type of genetic mutations frequently seen in cancerous cells. More research can then be done to fully understand how the genome functions and to discover the genetic basis for health and disease.

How can I create a family health history?

Too help people in the task of creating their family health histories, HHS offers a free, computerized tool that organizes health information into a printout that can be can taken to health-care professionals. The tool, called "My Family Health Portrait," is available here.

To learn more about women's health:

• Click here for a web-based tool from the Department of Human Services, which helps users organize family history information for presentation to the family doctor.

• The National Institute for Children and Human Development produces publications that summarize current knowledge and NICHD research findings on many topics related to women's health.

• The National Human Genome Research Institute led the Human Genome Project for the National Institutes of Health, which culminated in the completion of the full human genome sequence in April 2003. Click here to read their latest information.