In Our DNA SC

Inherited: a big, beautiful smile & a tendency for high cholesterol

Sign Up Now Via MyChart
Woman smiling

Frequently Asked Questions

About In Our DNA SC

In Our DNA SC is a large-scale community research project investigating how DNA impacts health, with a broader goal of learning how to offer more personalized health care to our patients and community.

DNA contains the genetic information that provides the instructions that led to you, including your physical traits (like eye color) and insights into your ancestral roots, but also provides health information. There are many similarities in everyone’s DNA, but there are important differences, and your DNA code is unique to you. We are still learning how DNA impacts health, and the insights we learn from studies like In Our DNA SC will help us provide more personalized health care for our patients and community.

In Our DNA SC is run by the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) in collaboration with Helix, a population genomics company that works with major health systems across the US to launch programs similar to In Our DNA SC.

We currently welcome anyone 18 years and older to join In Our DNA SC that can also read and write in English. We plan to expand enrollment to all patients soon with the hope that this program will reflect the diversity of our community. We hope In Our DNA SC can power research and improve health care for everyone.

By contributing your genetic and health history information to In Our DNA SC, researchers will be able to learn more about how DNA impacts health and disease. The more we understand, the more we can improve health care for you, your family and your community for generations to come. There is also a chance that the information you learn from In Our DNA SC could impact your health care now.

No. Participation is free and the genetic testing provided will not be billed to your health insurance or to you.

Signing up is simple and something you can do from home. Currently, we are sending invitations through MUSC Health MyChart to a select group of patients with upcoming appointments at participating clinics. If you receive one of these MyChart messages, you can click on the link in your MyChart invitation and complete the informed consent form online in advance of your visit. Then, when you show up for your appointment, your care team staff will provide you with the materials to collect your DNA sample.

If you have not received an invitation through MyChart, but would like to participate in In Our DNA SC, please provide your email address here so we can contact you when the program expands.

No. Research studies include only people who choose to participate. It is your choice whether or not you want to take part in this study and your decision will not impact your care at MUSC.

If you have questions about the study, you can contact the MUSC study team at InOurDNASC@musc.edu or by calling 843-876-0582.

If you have questions about your Helix account, you can contact support@helix.com or by calling toll-free at 844-211-2070.

What to expect as a participant

Once you sign the consent form, you will receive a MUSC Health MyChart message confirming your participation in the program, along with information on what to expect next. You will be asked to provide a saliva sample at your next appointment.

It is important not to eat, drink, smoke or chew gum for 30 minutes before you provide your saliva sample.

At the beginning of your appointment, your care team staff will help you collect your saliva sample. They will hand you a collection tube and you will spit into the tube until the saliva reaches the fill line, which usually takes a few minutes. Once you are done, you will hand the tube back to your care team staff, and they will send it off for processing.

Your care team staff will send your sample to Helix for DNA analysis, known as sequencing. Sequencing reads the code contained within the DNA so that it can be used for research. You will also receive an email from Helix offering you the opportunity to create an optional Helix account.

Yes. You and your healthcare provider will receive health results that will indicate if you have inherited certain risk factors in your DNA, meaning that the risk has been passed from generation to generation in your family. Your family history alone, or standard medical screening tests, do not always identify risks for these conditions. Specifically, the test will tell you about your genetic risk for the following three conditions that the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other medical professionals consider to be important enough to warrant further investigation of treatment:

  • Familial hypercholesterolemia (FH): A hereditary form of very high cholesterol that causes heart disease at an earlier age than the general population.
  • Hereditary breast and ovarian cancer (HBOC): A hereditary form of breast and ovarian cancer, specifically linked with abnormalities in the 2 most common genes (BRCA1 and BRCA2). 
  • Lynch syndrome: The most common cause of hereditary colorectal (colon) cancer - people with Lynch syndrome are more likely to get colorectal cancer and at a younger age.

In addition, if you sign up for a Helix account, you’ll receive information about your genetic ancestry and how your DNA may influence certain traits, such as your caffeine metabolism.

About 1-2% (1 to 2 people out of 100) will be found to have a risk for one of the inherited cancer or heart conditions that are part of this study. These participants will have an opportunity to speak with a MUSC genetic counselor, who will explain how to interpret the results and recommended follow-up clinical care. Additional results with clinical importance may also be available for you in the future.

If you have a personal or family history of a condition covered by this test, you may want to speak with a genetic counselor or your personal doctor about whether additional or different genetic testing may be appropriate for you. A genetic counselor is a medical professional specifically trained to help you understand how your genetic information may impact your health, as well as your family’s. Those communications would be separate from In Our DNA SC.

Typically, your Ancestry and Traits results are ready within 8 weeks of the Helix lab receiving your sample. It takes about another month before your health results are ready to view, as extra steps are taken to ensure your health results are accurate. Helix will email you when your results are ready to view in the Helix online portal on Helix.com. Additionally, your health results will be returned to your medical record and you will receive a MUSC Health MyChart message notification when that happens.

Creating a Helix account will give you access to additional information and features that are not available in your MUSC Health MyChart account, such as:

  • Dashboard view of the status of your results – from when your sample is received in the lab to when your results are ready.
  • Learning about your Ancestry and Traits information.
  • Ability to easily download a PDF version of your Helix Health results report when available.

Yes, your health results will be saved in your medical record and your healthcare provider will have access to them to inform your future care plans.

Over time, more health-related results may be returned to you as researchers and health care providers learn more about how DNA impacts human health. You may be contacted in the future if more information or samples are needed. However, you do not have to agree to provide more information or additional samples if you do not want to.

Privacy & data protection

No. The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 (GINA) is a federal law that makes it illegal for health insurance companies, group health plans, and most employers to discriminate against you based on your genetic information. However, this law doesn’t protect you against genetic discrimination by companies when they consider selling you life insurance, disability insurance, or long-term care insurance. These companies must still abide by GINA when it comes to health insurance.

The information you contribute to In Our DNA SC will be used by researchers to study a wide range of questions around how DNA can impact health. All research will have to be approved by institutional ethics boards before researchers can access the information, and all information used for research purposes will be de-identified. This means that researchers will not see any information that could be used to identify you. We will share discoveries that are made by In Our DNA SC researchers through our website and newsletters.

Your privacy is very important to us, and we take many steps to ensure it is protected, such as:

  • Your information (your genetic information and health records) will be stored in secure databases.
  • We limit and closely monitor who can access your data.
  • We limit who is allowed to see information that could identify you, like your name or contact information.
  • Researchers who have access to your data must be trained and certified to work with this type of research data.
  • You can choose to withdraw and stop sharing your information at any time.

Informed consent

We want to make sure you understand what is involved in the study so you can make an informed decision about whether or not to participate. If you decide to participate, we ask you to review and sign the In Our DNA SC informed consent form. You can review a copy of the consent document here (PDF).

You may withdraw from the study at any time by reaching out through email at InOurDNASC@musc.edu, or by calling 843-876-0582. Your decision to withdraw will not affect the medical care you receive. After you withdraw, your DNA and health information will no longer be analyzed or included in this research program. However, any results that are already in your healthcare records cannot be removed.