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Genetic research now integrated into Stanford’s MyHeart Counts app

Stanford Medicine and 23andMe, the personal genetics company, have collaborated to add a new module for Stanford's free MyHeart Counts app. The 23andMe module allows MyHeart Counts users who are already existing 23andMe customers to share their de-identified 23andMe genetic data with MyHeart Counts researchers.

MyHeart Counts, which works on the Apple iPhone, allows users to both monitor their own cardiovascular health and share their heart and activity data with heart researchers at Stanford. Since MyHeart Counts launched last year, Stanford Medicine's innovative digital consent option has allowed users to easily decide what kind of data to share and even to change choices from time to time. The novel consent process will now also be extended to those participants who wish to share their 23andMe genetic information.

Euan Ashley, MRCP, DPhil, a co-principal investigator of the MyHeart Counts study, believes Stanford's digital consent process is the first smartphone-based consent process for sharing genetic data. "This is the first time that consent for secure sharing of genetic data has been possible on a phone -- it's about putting the power directly in the hands of the participant," he says.

The new stream of genetic data from 23andMe customers will allow Stanford investigators to study the interaction of genetic variation, activity levels, fitness and cardiovascular health outcomes to better understand what keeps hearts healthy.

"Genotype data has revealed such important clues to human biology that combining it with real world measures of physical activity and fitness is a very exciting prospect," says Ashley, an associate professor of cardiovascular medicine.

The MyHeart Counts app was one of the inaugural mobile health apps launched on Apple's ResearchKit platform in March 2015. Developed by researchers at the School of Medicine, the app collects data about volunteers' physical activity and cardiac risk factors. The data is forwarded to secure servers where each person's name is replaced with a random code. The coded and encrypted data is then used for research on cardiovascular disease.

So far, 50,000 people in the United States, Hong Kong, and the United Kingdom have joined the study. The Stanford researchers' dream is to enroll many more volunteers and make MyHeart Counts the largest study of physical activity, genetics and cardiovascular health to date.

The new 23andMe plug-in will also work with Mount Sinai's Asthma Health app, also on Apple's ResearchKit platform.

Previously: Build it (an easy way to join research studies) and the volunteers will come, MyHeart Counts app debuts with a splash and Stanford launches iPhone app to study heart health
Photo from MyHeart Counts

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