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Gene Project with Viral Potential

University of Michigan researchers have launched a study they are calling 'Genes for Good' that is relying on a Facebook-based app to recruit and keep in touch with participants, BuzzFeed News' Virginia Hughes reports.

UMich's Gonçalo Abecasis and his team say involvement in the project entails participants sending them vials of saliva for DNA analysis and filling out surveys in the Facebook app every so often. At the project's website, the researchers note that the goal of the study is to create a large database of health and genetic information to enable treatments for people with common conditions like heart attack, obesity, migraine, and more.

"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,'" Abecasis tells BuzzFeed News. "Hopefully that will be the major motivator."

Hughes notes that the researchers stressed that Facebook is just their communication tool and it won't have access to participants' personal information. "The standard ways of collecting information on people don't really scale," Abecasis adds.

Still, Michelle Meyer from the Union Graduate College-Mount Sinai Bioethics Program tells Hughes that some people won't be comfortable with the concept. "DNA and Facebook are two words that most people do not want to hear in the same sentence," she says.

The project, Hughes notes, has the potential to go viral as Facebook's organ donation status field, campaign to get out the vote, and more have.

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