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Kaiser launches genetic research program

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OAKLAND, Calif.—Kaiser Permanente has unveiled a research project aimed at examining the genetic and environmental causes behind diseases such as diabetes, asthma and Alzheimer's.

The Oakland, Calif.-based health maintenance organization Wednesday said member participation will be critical for success of the Research Program on Genes, Environment and Health. Kaiser Permanente said it will mail surveys to about 2 million adult plan participants in Northern California, inquiring about health history, lifestyle and habits.

Researchers will invite members to give blood or saliva samples to obtain genetic information, probably in 2008.

Many common diseases and conditions are linked to genetic and environmental factors, and the research could help identify risks a particular person might face, how to reduce those risks and the best way to treat disease, Kaiser said in a statement.

The goal of RPGEH is to discover which genes and environmental factors—the air we breathe, the water we drink as well as lifestyles and habits we have—are linked to specific diseases and conditions, Kaiser said.