The VA’s Million Veteran Program (MVP) is the nation’s largest medical research database that records clinical, genetic, military, and lifestyle information in an attempt to find causative connections for medical conditions and disabilities. MVP currently has over 390,000 veterans participating and hopes to reach their goal of one million enrollees in the next 5-7 years.
While we know that genes determine how tall we are, the color of our eyes or hair, etc., genes may also determine how likely we are to develop illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease, or cancer. Using the data gathered through the MVP, the VA hopes to gain a better understanding of how our genetic make-up affects our health. This research may provide answers to questions such as why a treatment works well for some veterans but not for others or why some veterans are more likely to develop certain illnesses. Hopefully, this will lead to better, more effective ways to treat and/or prevent various medical conditions.
In addition to genetic connections, the VA also hopes to find causative relationships between various medical conditions and the military environment and individual lifestyle. By using the MVP data to identify patterns, the VA hopes to make new discoveries that will enable the military to make changes to better ensure service member and veteran health.
For example, the VA recently announced that they were beginning four new studies using MVP data. The first will look at how risk factors for cardiovascular (heart) disease are affected by genetics and how these risk factors differ among various populations. The second study will use MVP data to look at the genetic risk factors associated with the chronic use of tobacco, alcohol, and opiods. The third study will look at how genes affect both the risk and progression of kidney disease, a major cause of death among veterans. Finally, the last new study will examine how genetics affect obesity and diabetes, metabolic conditions which often lead to heart disease, in the hope of developing new, personalized treatments.
While the Million Veteran Program is a long-term project designed to make a difference in the future lives of military members and veterans and while the positive results of this program may not directly benefit your life, we highly encourage all veterans to volunteer to participate in this great, and potentially life-changing, program. It is a great way to make a true difference in the lives of others, and participation is easy. It’s simply a matter of donating a blood sample and providing health information. For more information, visit www.research.va.gov/mvp.