No-Cost Genetic Testing
Early detection of disease-causing variants in the genes has the power to improve health outcomes and raise awareness for your family members and future generations.
March 31, 2022
What exactly is the relationship between genetics and disease? Powered by Renown Health, the Healthy Nevada Project is one of the most visible genomic studies in the United States. They are recruiting participants here in northern Nevada to understand the relationship between genetics and nonalcoholic liver disease. Joseph Grzymski, Principal Investigator at the Healthy Nevada Project and Chief Scientific Officer at Renown Health, shares why this study is so important and who should take part.
Many people are aware that heavy drinking can lead to liver disease. Yet they are unaware that other types of liver disease are not caused by alcohol consumption. These types of liver disease are more difficult to diagnose but are equally dangerous.
A build-up of fat causes nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD) in the liver. The most dangerous form is called Nonalcoholic Steatohepatitis (NASH). It causes inflammation and damages liver cells, leading to fibrosis, scarring of the liver, and decreased liver function. If NASH goes untreated, irreversible liver damage can occur, leading to cirrhosis, cancer, or liver failure. These conditions can be fatal.
What’s most concerning about NASH is that the symptoms don’t typically cause pain and aren’t noticeable. The good news is that a new local study is raising awareness about this disease by recruiting at-risk people for NASH.
We do not know a lot about inheriting NASH, although a lot risk factors run in families. One goal of this study is to better understand the genetic component of NASH. There are certainly other risks too, such as environmental and behavioral risk factors. However, we don’t yet have a good grasp on how these impact NASH risk.
Diagnosis is traditionally done with either a liver ultrasound or biopsy. However, both procedures are expensive and the invasive biopsy has risks. Therefore doctors often use risk factors or less invasive blood tests for diagnosis. This NASH study will include a new blood test called the enhanced liver function (ELF) test. Doctors and researchers have data suggesting that the ELF test is a better diagnostic test for NASH risk. Conducting this cutting-edge test with study participants allows them to share results with their doctors to ensure the best care.
Limiting exposure to the risk factors of NASH often lowers risk. Eating a healthy diet, maintaining a recommended weight and exercising regularly can proactively lower your risk.
Currently there are no approved treatments or therapies for NASH. That’s why it’s important to participate in this study and help us find a cure.
We want to better understand why some people develop NASH while others do not. To do this, we have to compare data from lots of people. Furthermore, we hope this study will help reveal the cause NASH. From there, we can develop effective treatments.
Do you live in northern Nevada with a NASH diagnosis or have a family member who has NASH? If so, we encourage you to to participate. If you have one or more of the following risk factors: obesity, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome and dyslipidemia, you may also be a good candidate for the study. If your doctor has found elevated liver enzymes (or elevated liver function), we encourage you to participate.