Why are you asking for my DNA?

The goal of Spit for Science: The VCU Student Survey is to understand what factors contribute to substance use and emotional health, across the college years and beyond. The on-line survey asked you many questions about environmental factors of importance – your home environment, your support system, your friends. But we know that environmental experiences aren't the only things that contribute to outcome. People have different dispositions and respond to their environment in different ways. For example, some people are more likely to get depressed than others when they experience a stressful life event. Other people are more likely to develop alcohol-related problems. Collecting a DNA sample will allow us to better understand how people's genetic predispositions interact with environmental factors to contribute to different outcomes. We plan to study how variation in DNA influences the use of alcohol and other substances, and emotional health.

What will happen to my DNA Sample?

Your sample will be labeled with a code number, not with your name or any other identifying information about you. It will then be delivered to a research laboratory here at VCU. No one at the laboratory will ever have the names of the participants in the project, so they will never be able to connect the genetic information to you.

Could my DNA ever be used in a police investigation?

No. Your DNA sample will always be kept completely confidential. It will never be used for purposes other than research. There are legal protections in place for this through the Certificate of Confidentiality we have obtained from the Federal Government.

Could my DNA ever be used for a paternity test?

No. The samples will always be completely confidential. The DNA samples will only be used for research purposes.

Can my sample be used for a drug test?

Absolutely not. We will only use the samples for extracting DNA for the research purposes as described above.

Will I get any feedback about my DNA sample?

As soon as you give us your sample, we immediately label it with a number. So the samples are sent to the lab without names. This is necessary to ensure your confidentiality, but it also means that we won't provide individual feedback to anyone. What we will do is send out general information about the findings that come out of the Spit for Science project through periodic newsletters and updates.

Can my parents get feedback about my DNA sample?

No. All information from this study is kept completely confidential. And because the samples are sent to the lab only with code numbers, your name will not be connected to your DNA sample.

Will my sample be used to test whether I will get a disorder?

No. The DNA samples will not be analyzed for any one specific person. Rather, we compare groups of people, for example, people who drink heavily versus people who do not. If you have questions about specific genetic testing you should ask your family doctor.

Can my DNA sample be used to predict whether I will have children with problems?

No. Families who are concerned about their children's risk for genetic disorders should talk to their family doctor about pregnancy testing and genetic counseling.

Could my family doctor contact you about my DNA sample?

No. The DNA bank for the project will always be kept completely confidential, with no exceptions. The DNA samples will only be used for research purposes. If your family doctor wants to conduct a DNA test for you, (s)he can easily take a DNA sample to be used for that purpose. All genetic information is stored separately from the names of the participants in the Spit for Science project.

If someone asks if I've had a genetic test, what should I say?

You should say that you have not had genetic testing, as we are not conducting screening tests on the DNA.

Could my DNA be used for cloning?

Absolutely not.


If you have additional questions about how your DNA will be used in this research project, please contact the research team at spit4science@vcu.edu or call (804) 628-4645.