What do you think of the latest news about genetic research in Australia?

The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) has released a report that suggests Australia is one of the few developed nations to have no clear guidelines for the study of human genes.

The NHMRC said there was no “standardised approach” to research into genes.

But Dr Michael Stacey, the lead researcher on the study, said that there was a “significant body of evidence” in favour of “targeted gene-based research”.

He said that while “a lot of the information is not particularly encouraging”, “the scientific evidence does suggest that we can potentially learn a lot about how the genes we inherit affect the quality of life and the health of people”.

“If we can develop a more robust approach to research that works across the entire range of health outcomes, that’s a very good thing,” Dr Stacey said.

“It’s also the case that the research community in Australia is very small.”

He said the findings “underscore the importance of making research more transparent, with a clear, easily accessible and accountable regulatory framework”.

Dr Stacey and his team looked at the data from more than 40,000 Australian people, from ages between 20 and 80, who were asked to fill in the “genetic health questionnaire” about their lifestyle, including how much exercise they did and how many days they took a daily multivitamin.

Dr Stoughton said he was surprised to find that the average participant reported only “moderately or highly positive” responses to the questionnaire.

He said they found that the survey “raises a few important questions”, like “how often do you get sick?” and “are you a heavy smoker?”.

“It certainly raises the question of whether there is a real difference between those who have a genetic predisposition to some chronic disease and those who don’t,” he said.

The study found that people who reported that they did a lot of exercise or took a multivitamins daily were about 10 per cent less likely to have a severe cardiovascular disease, and 20 per cent more likely to be diagnosed with dementia.

Dr Anthony Bickford, a professor of epidemiology at the University of Sydney and a member of the Australian Heart Foundation Heart and Diabetes Research Centre, said the report’s findings were “incredibly encouraging”.

“It is well established that genetic susceptibility to certain diseases is a strong predictor of disease,” Dr Bickfield said.

He added that the study found “some evidence” that the gene-environment interactions that influence a person’s risk of developing diseases were stronger in people with a genetic vulnerability to coronary heart disease, for example.

“These are good things for the heart,” he told ABC Radio Melbourne.

“I think it’s very interesting that we’re seeing these findings and that the relationship between genes and disease in humans is very, very complex.”

Dr Stace said the study could have important implications for the medical community, as the “big question” of how genes and the environment interact to affect health remained unanswered.

“There’s a lot more research needs to be done, including on the impact of these interactions in relation to chronic disease,” he added.