Apple aligns with 23andMe to pull genetic data into ResearchKit
At the same time that it revealed CareKit, Apple announced that ResearchKit would be updated to more easily make use of genetic data, via a module designed by consumer genetics company 23andMe. Apple also added other modules for common medical tests to ResearchKit.
“The response to ResearchKit has been fantastic. Virtually overnight, many ResearchKit studies became the largest in history and researchers are gaining insights and making discoveries that weren’t possible before,” Apple COO Jeff Williams said in a statement. “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.”
“This new technology gives researchers a turnkey way to integrate genetics into their studies,” 23andMe CEO Anne Wojcicki added in another statement. “This will enable research on a much broader scale. Incorporating genetics into a platform with the reach of ResearchKit will accelerate insights into illness and disease even further.”
Apple announced three ResearchKit apps that will begin incorporating genetic data, one new app and two existing ones. PPD Act will use genetic data to explore the question of why postpartum depression affects some women and not others. The study will be led by the University of North Carolina School of Medicine and the international Postpartum Depression: Action Towards Causes and Treatment Consortium. The National Institute of Mental Health will provide spit kits to facilitate genetic testing.
“There’s so much we still need to learn about postpartum depression and it may be DNA that provides the key to better understanding why some women experience symptoms and others do not,” Dr. Samantha Meltzer-Brody, director of the Perinatal Psychiatry Program at the UNC Center for Women’s Mood Disorders, said in a statement. “With ResearchKit, and now the ability to incorporate genetic data, we’re able to engage women with postpartum depression from a wide geographic and demographic range and can analyze the genomic signature of postpartum depression to help us find more effective treatments.”
Stanford’s MyHeartCounts app will incorporate data from 23andMe users who are already using the app. The data will help them to study genetic predisposition toward heart conditions and how they interrelate to lifestyle and activity factors.
Mount Sinai’s Asthma Health app will “use genetic data from 23andMe customers to help researchers better understand ways to personalize asthma treatment,” according to Apple.
“Collecting this type of information will help researchers determine genomic indicators for specific diseases and conditions,” Mount Sinai Genomics Professor Eric Schadt said in a statement. “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.”
In addition to genetics, new modules that have been contributed to ResearchKit include a test for tone audiometry; the ability to measure reaction time through delivery of a known stimulus to a known response; an assessment tool for the speed of information processing and working memory; a means to use the mathematical puzzle Tower of Hanoi for cognition studies; and a timed walk test.
The brand new CareKit framework, meanwhile, is designed to enable patients to track their care and to share that health data with physicians and family members. The first two apps focus on Parkinson’s Disease and helping patients adhere to pust-surgery care plans.