It is a question that has bothered researchers from the starting of the coronavirus crises: Why do some people get seriously ill and die from COVID-19, while some have moderate symptoms or none at all?
Researchers at two direct-to-consumer genealogy DNA corporations hope to use the genomes they have collected from a vast number of people to determine whether they can locate a genetic explanation to answer this question.
The two 23andMe and Ancestry have started COVID-19 research, asking U.S. adult users who have already submitted DNA samples to answer online questions on how the virus affected or did not affect them.
From the initial days… the experts think it was apparent to them that some folks were getting very, very sick when they were infected with the coronavirus. A few people had barely any symptoms at all. It turns out that there are a vast number of individuals who don’t have any symptoms. The spectrum of human response to the same pathogen is uncertain.
And with a lot of comorbidities and other difficulties, it is still divergent in various individuals, even if they have the same overall health and same age. And so to geneticists, that seems like there is a genetic factor in whether people become infected in the first place or have mild or severe symptoms.
An Established Data Pool
With 16 million people who have already spit in vials and sent them to Ancestry for genetic testing to locate blood relatives that are closely or distantly related or find out just how much of the DNA indicates their relatives came from Africa or Asia or were Native European or American. The company understood it had a possibly useful data pool to draw for COVID-19 study.
The experts clearly want to take the chance to unleash that power to have the ability to see whether there are genetic signs. They can assist researchers and individuals in making therapeutics and drugs and vaccines do smarter work faster.
Of those 16 million DNA users through Ancestry, till now, about 500,000 people have taken an online survey to take part in the coronavirus research.
The California-based firm’s COVID-19 genome-wide institution study started in April.
About 10 Million of its genotype clients are eligible for the study. Of them, about 80 percent have agreed to take part in research, and 600,000 customers have chosen into the COVID-19 study.
It is a truly quite great reaction to the study, and that shows that people really do want to attempt to contribute to help understand and combat this disease.
Both 23andMe and Ancestry admit that the larger the sample size, the higher their study will be.
Never ask a scientist just how much information he or she wants because they always need more. They are really hoping to find at least one million respondents since they will need to have an adequate number of those who have tested positive to give them a statistical signal.
So far, about 9,000 people in the COVID-19 study of 23andMe reported that they tested positive.
That’s a fairly substantial number. However, it is the essence of genetic research that they need vast numbers of people so that they can draw connections between the people’s health info and genetic information.
Since the Pandemic started, about 1.6 million people in the USA, a country of 330 million, have tested positive for COVID-19. Since the virus continues to spread, and more people get diagnoses, the businesses suspect that the number of individuals that will enroll in their research is likely to rise.
The experts understand that this is an evolving situation. And while people can not shelter in place forever, sooner or later, as we are opening our states and cities, more people will start contracting the virus.
People who might have already filled out an online COVID-19 poll on Ancestry.com or 23andMe. Com, stating they had not had the virus, can revise their answers later to signify that they have contracted it.
To expand its research of people who have had COVID-19 even more, 23andMe is currently providing to mail a free DNA test kit to some U.S adult who had been hospitalized with COVID-19 but hasn’t yet submitted a DNA sample to the corporation.
They are asking if people are hospitalized with COVID-19, and they’ve recovered if they want to take part in their research. They can visit the 23andMe site, and they provide them a free kit.
They are very interested in trying to get the word out so that people hear about this, as every data point will be quite valuable.
23andMe has sent a mail to customers in areas hardest hit so far to let them know about its study.
They say that the best thing that they can do to make a difference for COVID would be to publish the outcomes they find and make them accessible to the scientific and research communities.
23andMe has published over 150 studies in peer-reviewed scientific journals. The vast majority of which come from collaboration with the broader academic and the scientific community since it launched in 2006 with its direct-to-consumer DNA kit.
23andMe’s research model, with countless customers, consented to participate, provides our scientists with a powerful tool for insight into the part genetics may perform in revealing differences in the severity of the novel coronavirus.
One way to identify genetic variants that lead to disease severity is a genome-wide association study or GWAS. At a GWAS, scientists compare the DNA of people who had severe symptoms to the DNA of individuals who had no signs or even milder symptoms. Genetic variants prevalent in these groups of participants compared to others represent genetic associations with COVID-19 severity.
And that’s only one question that 23andMe research expects to answer. They’ll compare genetic variants in people who get seriously ill with variants in people who had more moderate symptoms or haven’t gotten sick. By identifying genetic mutations that are more prevalent in people who experienced severe disease, scientists can better recognize who’s most at risk. Possibly even more importantly, these genetic research can also help them gain new insights into how the novel coronavirus infects human cells and impacts bodies. And those insights might provide clues to possible targets for new drugs or vaccines.
However, the company ran afoul of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2013 when the agency directed 23andMe to stop the launch of genetic health information to consumers. It is because the firm had yet to prove its evaluations were “analytically or clinically verified.”
After revamping, the business passed FDA muster in 2017 and obtained authorization to provide genetic health reports that summarized risk for 10 conditions, such as late-onset Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.
Ancestry is new to the health genetics industry. It established AncestryHealth in 2019, with the disclaimer that its tests are physician-ordered rather than diagnostic. Though provide “health insights” to whether someone may be a carrier for cystic fibrosis or sickle cell anemia. Or, if there is a genetic variant associated with a higher risk for breast cancer or colon cancer.
The experts said Ancestry will also want to release its COVID-19 research findings.
They will do our very best to publish their findings as soon as possible and making them useful to clinicians and other researchers as fast as possible.
Hopes of Creating A Treatment
The experts urged people to think about participating in this research for the common good and stressed, in this time, that the focus is on safeguarding the privacy of its customers.
The individuals who came to AncestryDNA were interested in finding out about their ancestors, their past, and their heritage. This is an opportunity in this moment of history to take 5-10 minutes and does their best to assist communities of family or friends and the people they do not even know who’ll be coming along later.
It’s an opportunity to contribute to everybody’s benefit. And at the moment, it’s a chance that resonates with a lot of people.”
The study could lead to treatments or therapies for people affected by COVID-19.
“Hopefully, that can really make a difference!