Apple ResearchKit updated with support for genetic data


Apple is adding genetic data and a series of medical tests typically conducted in an exam room to its ResearchKit platform. As a result, researchers are able to design targeted studies for diseases and conditions that affect billions of people around the world and to gather more specific types of data from participants.

“Medical researchers around the world continue to use iPhone to transform what we know about complex diseases, and with continued support from the open source community, the opportunities for iPhone in medical research are endless,” Jeff Williams, Apple’s COO, said in a statement.

Using the newly released module designed by 23andMe, study participants are able to easily contribute their genetic data to medical research. Researchers are also working with the National Institute of Mental Health to deliver “spit kits” to study participants based on a series of survey results.

Using the new module designed by 23andMe, study participants are able to easily contribute their genetic data to medical research.“Collecting this type of information will help researchers determine genomic indicators for specific diseases and conditions,” said Eric Schadt, PhD, the Jean C. and James W. Crystal Professor of Genomics at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, and Founding Director of the Icahn Institute for Genomics and Multiscale Biology. “Take asthma, for example. ResearchKit is allowing us to study this population more broadly than ever before and through the large amounts of data we’re able to gather from iPhone, we’re understanding how factors like environment, geography and genes influence one’s disease and response to treatment.”

PPD Act is a new app-based study that will use genetic testing to better understand why some women are impacted by postpartum depression. Led by the University of North Carolina School of Medicine and the international Postpartum Depression: Action Towards Causes and Treatment Consortium, the application will offer study participants access to a “spit kit” from the National Institute of Mental Health.

Another study that is available through the MyHeart Counts app will use genetic data from existing 23andMe customers to help determine predisposition to heart conditions and measure how a participant’s activity and lifestyle relate to cardiovascular health. By studying these relationships on a broad scale, researchers hope to be able to better understand how to keep hearts healthy.

Finally the Asthma Health app, designed by the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and LifeMap Solutions, will also use 23andMe data to help researchers better understand ways to personalize asthma treatment.

Apple also announced new modules that were contributed to ResearchKit, including the ability to study tone audiometry; measure reaction time through delivery of a known stimulus to a known response; assess the speed of information processing and working memory; use the mathematical puzzle Tower of Hanoi for cognition studies; and conduct a timed walk test.

ResearchKit studies are available in Australia, Austria, China, Germany, Hong Kong, Ireland, Japan, Netherlands, Switzerland, the UK and the US.