Aligning with the vision to reimagine healthcare, WellSpan Health now offers patients and community members an opportunity to participate in the Gene Health Project to help identify and study how genetic factors may influence a person’s health while also supporting new research discoveries across the community.
In partnership with Helix, the nation’s leading population genomics and viral surveillance company, the Gene Health Project is a comprehensive, community genomic research program, in which WellSpan patients and community members 18 years old and older can share DNA samples to support research and help to identify health risks like heart disease and certain cancers.
“At WellSpan, we want to be on the leading edge of what we are able to offer our patients, providing first-class clinical care right here In South Central Pennsylvania, and the Gene Health Project allows us to offer that next level care to our patients," says Dr. C. Anwar Chahal, principal investigator for the study and director of the Center for Inherited Cardiovascular Diseases at WellSpan Health. "We may not know all of the details of our family's health history, but now we have the opportunity to participate in this research study and learn more about our genetics to better understand potential risks for developing heart disease and certain cancers, and to help personalize a care plan for a healthier future."
Once eligible participants are enrolled and submit DNA samples, Helix will analyze the genetic information and report on whether the participant has an inherited risk for hereditary breast and ovarian cancer, colorectal cancer related to Lynch Syndrome and heart disease including very high cholesterol levels, also known as familial hypercholesterolemia. Helix reports that for every 100 people studied, there could be one to two people who will have a genetic variant that may put them at risk for one of the conditions reported as part of this project.
“Early detection is powerful, and this study can identify potential risks before they are detected by other means,” said Dr. David Kann, medical director of Precision Medicine at WellSpan Health. "By knowing someone's genetic makeup, physicians are able to prevent and treat diseases more effectively. Participating in the project will also help us better understand the health of our region and enable us to design personalized care plans for our patients."
Participation is completely voluntary, with results accessible to each patient and their physicians. The privacy protected genomic data will then be used for future research opportunities.
WellSpan will also leverage Helix’s genomic platform and unique Sequence Once, Query Often™ model. This allows for future testing on the collected samples that may provide new health insights without the need to collect additional genetic material.
There is no cost to participate and no need for health insurance. Community participants are encouraged to contact GeneHealthProject@wellspan.org to enroll in this research program. If eligible, participants will be contacted to consent and then can visit a conveniently located WellSpan lab to provide a sample through a simple blood draw. Within eight to twelve weeks, participants and their physicians will have access to their results through the MyWellSpan electronic medical record. Participants can also create a Helix account for access to even more information including their regional ancestry and personal traits like gluten tolerance, caffeine sensitivity, and more.
Interested participants can learn more at WellSpan.org/GeneHealthProject.