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many areas of research, Newby says. The university has already granted research access to—and received funding from—other universities, philanthropic organizations, government agencies, and pharmaceutical companies.
“We’re not in any way constrained with who can work with us, we can work with anyone that has a good question that’s scientifically valid,” Newby says.
(The MURDOCK Study is separate from a longitudinal study announced earlier this year by Google (NASDAQ: GOOG), in partnership with both Duke and Stanford universities. Newby says volunteers may participate in both.)
If the Framingham study is the grandfather of longitudinal studies, the MURDOCK study is still a toddler. Newby says it’s too early to report any findings, but data on aging should be published in coming months. The data chronicle the physical performance tests volunteers perform every two years to provide a perspective on physical aging—and how it differs from chronological aging.
MURDOCK volunteers are also given memory tests. Those tests are part of research into mild cognitive impairment—a term for the memory problems and other mental difficulties that are greater than what is typical of changes that occur with age. Newby expects these results could eventually become part of Alzheimer’s disease research.
As MURDOCK collects data, statisticians and bioinformaticists will mine them for clues about those diseases, and others. But first, the study needs more people. About 2,000 new volunteers have signed up each year. Study volunteers tend to be healthier than the general population, and more women than men tend to volunteer. The study aims to limit that bias by recruiting from a random sampling of Cabarrus County households. Before it can reach the medical leaps of grandfather Framingham, young MURDOCK must take some baby steps.
For the MURDOCK study, or the Precision Medicine Initiative, or any other cohort-based population study, we’re still probably five to 10 years away from seeing the fruits of precision medicine, but it’s this groundwork that we have to do,” Newby says.