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10/9/2008
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Microsoft To Help Study Lifestyle Impact Of Genetic Testing

The software maker will team with genetic researchers to determine whether individuals will alter their behavior if predisposed to disease.

Microsoft is teaming up with the health care industry to study the impact of genetic screening on individuals' behavior. The aim is to determine what effect, if any, information about one's chances of contracting a particular disease has on how people live their lives.

The study is sponsored by the Scripps Translational Science Institute and includes genomic research companies Navigenics and Affymetrix, as well as Microsoft.

"Genome scans give people considerable information about their DNA and risk of disease, yet questions have been raised if these tests are ready for widespread public use," said Eric Topol, a medical doctor and director of STSI, in a statement.

"Our study will prospectively evaluate the effect that state-of-the-art gene scans have on people's lifestyles, behaviors, diets, and psyches," Topol added.

Researchers will study the genomes of up to 10,000 employees and family members of the Scripps Health system in San Diego who volunteer for the project and will monitor changes in their behavior over a 20-year period.

Under the plan, Affymetrix will scan participants' genomes and Navigenics will interpret the results and provide participants with guidance on how to lessen the chances of contracting diseases to which they may be genetically predisposed. Participants will be able to store their tests results, and related data, in a Microsoft HealthVault account.

Microsoft launched the HealthVault service last year. It allows users to store medical data in a secure, online network and share the information with health care providers and other individuals they designate.

"Personalized medicine stands to change the way people approach their health and wellness, as well as open up new genetic research opportunities," said Peter Neupert, corporate VP for the Health Solutions Group at Microsoft.

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