The idea is that the survey serves to guide disease prevention and treatment programs.
By Maria Clara Rossini
10 Dec 2019, 20:02
After a long time – and several requests on the internet – the time has finally come for the Brazilian to be studied. The “DNA of Brazil” is the first project to map the Brazilian genome on a large scale, something that has been researched in other countries.
The initiative went public on Tuesday (10) and will be led by geneticist Lygia da Veiga Pereira, from USP. 15,000 Brazilians between 35 and 74 years old will have their DNA mapped. Participants are civil servants who are already part of Elsa (acronym for Longitudinal Study of Adult Health), which studies the health of workers in six Brazilian capitals since 2008.
Genetic information will be provided by the Ministries of Health and Science and Technology, which fund Elsa. Everything will be released in the cloud, more precisely Google Cloud: each of the 15,000 genomes occupies 500 gigabytes – twice what the most modern iPhone would be able to store. According to the company, the data will be protected and only researchers will have access to patients' genetic information. Everything is done with the consent of the participants, who may give up at any time.
The aim of the research is to better understand which genetic factors influence chronic diseases. By knowing if a person is predisposed to a disease, it is possible to prevent or even edit the DNA to prevent it from manifesting.
Other projects have done the same outside the country. The most famous is the Human Genome Project, which began in 1990 and was the largest genomic sequencing in history and was attended by several countries.
But then why do it in Brazil? Although the DNA of the human species is almost identical, each population has specific genetic characteristics. As Pereira points out, Brazil is marked by the miscegenation of different peoples, including indigenous, European, Asian, African and others. Understanding the specific variants and risks of the Brazilian population will help to create better health policies for the country.
Using patients who already have a health history mapped out by Elsa was a strategic decision. Researchers will be able to compare genetic information with the diseases that the people involved in the study already have.
It will still be at least five years before the project generates the first results. Diagnostic medicine company DASA has funded the sequencing of the first 3,000 genomes, which are due to begin sequencing in the first half of 2020. However, there is still no funding for the other 12,000, which should be funded in the future by other companies. .