CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) — South Carolina residents will now have access to free genetic testing, thanks to the expansion of a DNA research project at the Medical University of South Carolina.

The “In Our DNA SC” project is designed to improve healthcare outcomes and disease prevention through the study of genetics.

“MUSC started it because of a recognition that genetics is something that hasn’t yet impacted healthcare very much – but the time is now,” Principal Investigator Daniel Judge said. “We really see the costs and the understanding of DNA in a much better place, to be able to use it in clinical practice, as well as some of the research that’s going on in the background.”

In addition to providing data for genetic research, MUSC officials said the screenings will allow participants to identify predispositions for certain conditions like colon cancer, breast cancer and high cholesterol. That, in turn, allows patients to take proactive measures to prevent disease.

“Finding out early is a good way of preventing disease,” Judge said.

The second goal of the program is to help clinicians learn more about the underlying factors that cause certain conditions and better match treatments, according to Judge.

“We should be able to match medicines better with people before we see if they have a side effect and cross that off their list,” he said.

To participate in the program, adults over 18 can sign up using their MUSC MyChart account, sign a consent form and then select one of two methods for providing a saliva sample: Drop it off at a collection site or have a kit mailed to their home.

The sample is then sent off to Helix, a leading population genomics company, where the DNA is sequenced and analyzed for potential health risks.

Judge assured that while an individual’s genetic information may be used to enhance international DNA databases and aid research efforts, it is completely confidential.

“There will be some sharing of information but it won’t be tied to individuals,” he said. “There [are] great efforts to make sure that there is confidentiality but also a better understanding of what’s normal and abnormal in South Carolina and southeast U.S.”

For more information on the “In Our DNA SC” project, click here.