There are some basic building blocks of a healthy and thriving community: collaboration, innovation, generosity, neighborliness, and partnerships.

And then there are the building blocks of every single human being, the molecules that make DNA: adenine, thymine, guanine, and cytosine.

Renown Health and the Desert Research Institute are combining those building blocks in the latest iteration of the groundbreaking Healthy Nevada study by asking 40,000 more northern Nevadans to add their DNA to the community-based population health study.

As Governor Brian Sandoval said at the project’s launch event on Thursday, this project speaks to the Nevada family and how we take care of one another.

Anthony Slonim, president and CEO of Renown Health and Gov. Brian Sandoval pose for a photo at the March 14 Healthy Nevada phase two launch event. Can you spot our Dickson team in the background?[/caption]

At Dickson Realty, we’re proud to be ambassadors for this tremendous project, which is raising the bar for the whole community and making our home a better place to live. We love our community and believe we have a responsibility to make it the best it can be.

To see if you are eligible to participate in the study, to sign up for study updates and full details on the Healthy Nevada Project, visit

Any northern Nevadan can sign up for the first 10,000 testing slots in phase two. Once those 10,000 slots are filled, researchers will focus on matching the demographics that comprise northern Nevada. This means study participants will be eligible based on specific demographic variables including gender, age group, ethnicity and rural versus urban residents.

In phase two of the study, Renown and DRI are partnering with Helix, a personal genomics company that uses Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) technology instead of genotyping. As a result, doctors and scientists will have access to significantly more genetic data than the previous study. Dr. Christos A. Galanopoulos, a surgical oncologist, and the Vice President and Chief Clinical Officer at the Renown Institute for Cancer, compared it to the information in a single book versus an entire library.

The first phase of the Healthy Nevada project made history. Ten-thousand community members signed up in just 48 hours, and the DNA sample collection was completed in 69 working days.

As a result of that sampling, providers and scientists will begin working on many clinical programs and scientific studies focused specifically on Washoe County’s high age-adjusted death rates for heart disease, cancer, and chronic lower respiratory disease. Collectively, these conditions among residents stand at 33 percent above the national rate.

In the coming months, Renown will begin providing advanced calcium score screenings to pilot phase participants at higher risk for cardiovascular disease, which will allow researchers to examine the link between genetics and calcium buildup in the heart. Additionally, based on pilot phase data, researchers have seen increased use of regional healthcare correlated with fluctuations in air quality, wildfires, and atmospheric inversions. In phase two, Renown IHI will evaluate possible links between genetics and increased susceptibility to respiratory ailments.

Phase one also resulted in many of the 10,000 participants discovering life-changing information about themselves and their health. For example, local teacher Heather Allen found out that she has a genetic deficiency where her liver doesn’t produce enough of a protein that protects her lungs so they can work normally. As a result of her DNA testing, doctors can treat her condition so that she can lead an active life.

No doubt the results from phase two will help even more northern Nevadans and improve this place we love to call home.