The high-powered diabetic cycling group Team Type 1 has once again pulled off a jaw-dropping feat: they've somehow caught the attention of 23andMe, one of just three celeb-status companies in the world offering "personal genomics services" — they scan people's DNA for details on their ancestry and individual health risks — and convinced them to launch a probe into Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes.
23andme's futuristic web-based research platform apparently creates "an entirely new way to study complex diseases." For example, last year the company got a grant to start a large-scale study on Parkinson's Disease, exploring how people inherit a mutated gene that may cause the illness.
Here's how the Team Type 1 diabetes study will work: (all it takes is a little bit of spit)
Saliva samples have already been collected at Team Type 1's training camp in Georgia from all 88 members (which includes the T1 riders with Tour de France aspirations, as well as all Team Type 2 riders).
Using the latest methods in DNA technology, 23andMe will "genotype" the samples by extracting the DNA itself, splicing it into smaller, more manageable pieces, and applying it to a DNA "chip."
According to the researchers: "The chip is a small glass slide with millions of microscopic beads on its surface. Attached to each bead are 'probes' — bits of DNA complementary to sites in a person's genome where their single nucleotide polymorphisms, or SNPs, are located. SNPs act as biological markers and allow scientists to locate genes associated with disease."
The last study of this nature took place last year, when more than 100 NFL players gave samples to allow researchers to examine how genes impact athletic performance. That one was the largest genetic examination ever conducted on professional American athletes.
Although smaller, the Team Type 1 study carries more of punch in that combines the work on 'athletic performance' with a completely new take on analyzing the genes that cause an illness which "has become the greatest public health crisis of the next quarter century," according to the ADA.
Huge kudos to Team Type 1 Captain Phil Southerland for once again shaking up our world. Now we're pinning our hopes on your spit, Guys!