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UMD Medicine launches study to create state’s largest research database

The database project aims to enroll 250,000 Maryland residents over the next decade who reflect the diversity of the state and want to play a pivotal role in helping researchers understand how genes and lifestyle affect an individual’s health. (File photo)

University of Maryland Medicine, the joint enterprise of the University of Maryland School of Medicine, the University of Maryland Medical Center, and University of Maryland Medical System, on Monday launched an initiative called My Healthy Maryland Precision Medicine Research.

The project aims to enroll 250,000 Maryland residents over the next decade who reflect the diversity of the state and want to play a pivotal role in helping researchers understand how genes and lifestyle affect an individual’s health.

A particular focus will be on underserved populations who experience significant health disparities, causing more illness and shorter lifespans. The large-scale effort to collect broad sources of health data, including genetic information, will aid researchers in better understanding human genomic variation and its relationship to disease and treatment.

Marylanders reflect a more genetically diverse community compared to the general U.S. population, with nearly one-third of residents identifying as African-American, more than 10% identifying as Hispanic or Latino, and 6% identifying as Asian.

Maryland is also home to a large immigrant population: One in seven Maryland residents was born in another country, with El Salvador, India, China and Nigeria among the top nations represented in the state. In addition, a significant percentage of state residents live in rural communities, and many live in coastal communities with differing environmental exposures and dietary habits compared to the nation as a whole.

Study participants will get periodic overall reports on the study’s progress, especially research results that may lead to better ways to treat or prevent disease. They will also have the opportunity to enroll in new research studies. In the future, researchers also hope to offer study participants the opportunity to learn about their own genetic variations that may warrant follow-up medical evaluation.