How would respond if someone politely asked, ‘Would you donate your body to medical science … now?’ For one hundred people in the US, the answer was a straightforward ‘yes’.
The subjects are about to share their live bodies as part of an unprecedented study that will examine how to improve personal health.
The Hundred Person Wellness Project, which begins next month, will require round-the-clock monitoring of its subjects, who are presumed healthy at the time of enrolment.
Scientists will sequence the entire genome of each participant. Then, for the next 25 years, they will take regular measurements of sleep patterns, heart rate, gut bacteria, proteins that track organ health, blood samples, immune cell activity and more.
It will defy the conventions of clinical trials by doing away with any control group against which to compare results and by planning to intervene on a personal basis with subjects as the study is ongoing.
“What is unique about humans is their individuality,” said Leroy Hood at the American Association for the Advancement of Science annual meeting.
The idea is to “actually follow the transition of the heart, brain and liver from wellness to disease,” said Hood, president of the Institute for Systems Biology in Seattle, Washington.
The focus of the nine-month pilot program is on ways to improve individual wellness based on each person’s unique makeup.
It aims to enrol 100,000 people within the next four years and continue monitoring them for up to three decades.
Scientists will be on the hunt for “actionable opportunities for each individual,” such as how they could change their nutrition to improve their health or avoid certain drugs that might be dangerous given their genetic makeup, Hood said.
Hood’s institute has budgeted about $US10,000 ($A11,065.62) per participant and is paying for the research through private donations, according to a report in Nature magazine this week.
As an example of how such intervention might work, Hood mentioned a friend who suddenly realised he had severe osteoporosis at the age of 35.
The friend had his DNA analysed and discovered he had a defect in a major calcium transporter. Soon after, he began taking calcium supplements and is now in good health five years later.