Scientists harnessing Facebook to advance global studies in genetics believe their methods can be replicated to support health research on a huge scale.
The Genes for Good project, spearhead by a team based at the University of Michigan, has engaged 80,000 plus people via Facebook, and collected 27,000 DNA spit-kits, as well as a range of survey data, gathered from a diverse group of individuals.
After years of genetic studies being held back by the obvious limitations stemming from researchers having restricted access to smaller test groups located in specific geographical areas, and the corresponding difficulties of effectively following up with participants, social media makes it possible to collate key information at scale.
Analysing the data coming from Facebook in the Genes for Good project has generated results that mirror those from ‘well-cited papers’, the work featured in The American Journal of Human Genetics reveals.
“We were quite pleased with our ability to replicate the findings of other large studies,” added Brieger. “For example, in our sample, we were able to identify previously reported associations between specific genetic variants and traits such as BMI, as well as conditions such as type 1 and type 2 diabetes.”
With the right funding, the innovators behind Genes for Good, point to the potential of similar initiatives reaching millions of users.