The US National Institute of Health (NIH) has agreed to fund clinical trials investigating the practicality and effectiveness of using genomics data as part of treatments for chronic disease such as high blood pressure, depression and chronic pain.

Scheduled to commence next year, the studies form part of the Implementing Genomics in Practice (IGNITE) Network with a total investment of $42m over five years.

In the first trial, the investigators aim to find out whether early access to patients’ genomic data could help treat high blood pressure, hypertension and chronic kidney disease.

Hypertension and high blood pressure are known to exacerbate end-stage kidney diseases. All three disorders are common among individuals of African ancestry when compared to European and Asian descent.

Certain African populations have two common apolipoprotein L1 (APOL1) gene mutations that increase severe kidney disease susceptibility by a factor of ten.

The study will compare medical intervention benefits provided to people tested for the APOL1 variant immediately after recruitment and those tested three months later.

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The second trial will examine the use of pharmacogenomics in guiding opioid and antidepressant prescriptions.

The study will monitor clinical outcomes in acute post-surgical pain, chronic pain and depression patients.

In pharmacogenomics, information on a patient’s genetic makeup can be used to predict their response to certain drug treatments.

IGNITE pragmatic clinical trials programme director Simona Volpi said: “Patients of African ancestry might experience better management of high blood pressure and improved prevention of kidney disease caused by high blood pressure.

“Treatment of depression and/or pain in patients regardless of race or ethnicity may be more effective and have fewer side effects when using a genomic approach to prescribing drugs for these conditions.”

The trials will be performed by members of the IGNITE Network, which include the University of Florida, the University of Indiana, Duke University, Vanderbilt University and the Icahn School of Medicine.