Scripps’ ResearchKit-based study looks at how genetic risk influences heart health decisions

MyGeneRank app

Scientists at the Scripps Translational Science Institute and The Scripps Research Institute have launched an app-based research study that seeks to understand how receiving personal genetic risk information impacts heart health decisions.

Called MyGeneRank, the application allows individuals with genetic data from 23andMe to obtain an estimated genetic risk score for coronary artery disease (CAD). Surveys and Apple HealthKit data will be used to determine if this information helped guide decision-making related to lifestyle modification and use of statin medications.

The research has shown that a genetic risk score can be used to identify people with low, intermediate and high risk for CAD. It has also been determined that the use of cholesterol-lowering drugs, known as statins, provides greater benefit and protection against disease for people with a high genetic risk for CAD. Additionally, despite their inherited genetic risks, individuals have the ability to offset much of their genetic risk for CAD by maintaining healthy lifestyle habits.

Ali Torkamani, Director of Genomics at the Scripps Translational Science Institute, and Associate Professor of Integrative Structural and Computational Biology at The Scripps Research Institute, leads the team behind MyGeneRank. “We want to determine whether or not knowledge of genetic risk impacts decision-making when it comes to health behaviors or statin therapy,” says Torkamani. “Using ResearchKit, we can reach more participants via iPhone, expanding this study far beyond geographic barriers.”

The MyGeneRank mobile app is built using Apple’s ResearchKit platform and connects to 23andMe’s API to automatically calculate and return a genetic risk score for coronary artery disease. The app also calculates a 10-year absolute risk estimate for an adverse coronary event, such as heart attack, using a combination of genetic and clinical factors. Users are able to adjust behavioral risk factors to see the influence of lifestyle habits on their overall risk.

Upon receipt of their score, study participants are asked to complete a survey, as well as six months later to determine whether knowledge of their genetic risk influenced their health decisions. Furthermore, individuals can share their health, activity and nutrition data with researchers to further assess changes in behavior.

Going forward, Torkamani says they will look into expanding the app’s offering of genetic risk scores to other diseases, support the Android platform, and integrate additional commercial personal genetic data platforms.