Scientists at University of Michigan along with Facebook have launched a project titled 'Genes for Good' aimed at discovering new links between certain genetic variants, health and disease. They aim to screen the genes of at least 20,000 people and they have developed a Facebook app to recruit people for the study.
Researchers hope that Facebook users will send a tube of their spit to a laboratory at the University of Michigan and use a free Facebook app to fill out periodic surveys about their health, habits and moods. The scientists will then screen the volunteers' DNA to try to discover new links between certain genetic variants, health and disease. To rigorously establish these links, the researchers will need to recruit tens of thousands of volunteers from a wide variety of backgrounds.
Project leader Gonalo Abecasis from the University of Michigan said, "We're really hoping that the main reason people will join is to say 'Hey, my health and genetic information is valuable. I would like to share it and put it to good use'. Hopefully that will be the major motivator."
From the scientists' perspective, Facebook is only a communication service, a smart way to recruit the massive number of volunteers needed to carry out complex genetic studies. They stress that the Facebook app is a digital portal and that Facebook will not have access to volunteers' personal information.