01/15/2013 10:59 EST | Updated 03/17/2013 05:12 EDT

Quebec bio-bank project expands

Up to 300,000 Quebecers might get a phone call from the province's health insurance board in the next few months.

The CARTaGENE bio-bank project is planning to expand its data bank in order to take a snapshot of the health of the Quebec population.

The program is collecting blood samples and medical information from thousands of residents, with each sample representing the health, lifestyle and genetic makeup of the population.

CARTaGENE is currently gathering data across province, with the hopes that it will be able to use the information to help scientists pinpoint the causes of certain diseases.

"The idea is to use all this information to be able to predict disease or the onset of disease at the individual level," said Dr. Youssef Idaghdour, a researcher affiliated with CARTaGENE.

Researchers have already found variants in the genes of people from Quebec City compared to residents of Montreal or Chicoutimi.

Linking genetic makeup with disease

The samples could have a major impact on medicine.

Dr. Pavel Hamet is Canada's research chair for predictive genomics of hypertension and cardiovascular diseases.

He is one of many scientists who has applied CARTaGENE's data samplings to his research.

He said the program helped him better understand why certain people have a propensity to diabetes, obesity and osteoporosis.

CARTaGENE's scientific director, geneticist Philip Awadalla, said the program not only helps researchers discover links between certain diseases, but also helps researchers better understand the causes.

"It's usually a complex interplay with a number of genes, and the environment, and the lifestyle of that particular individual," Awadalla said.

According to Awadalla, it's possible medicine could eventually focus more on prevention, and the adaptation of treatments based on the needs of specific populations.