Volunteers help advance research for immune system diseases

SEATTLE — In the Seattle area, a group of volunteers is working with scientists at the Benaroya Research Institute at Virginia Mason to ultimately improve the health and wellness of millions living with an autoimmune disease.

“Really not too much time commitment for how much it is giving to science, so it’s easy,” said Micah Mansfield.

Micah Mansfield is one of more than 100 healthy adults participating in the Sound Life Project. The 29-year-old is helping scientists at BRI better understand healthy immune systems.

As a medical assistant at Virginia Mason, Mansfield is passionate about the health care industry. He jumped at the opportunity to volunteer his time for a project that could lead to groundbreaking research.

“I guess the ultimate dream is for it to really help out in science, maybe part of that study that makes a breakthrough in some disease that’s out there that’s been a stumper for a while, that would great to be a part of that, but even small contributions. From my understanding it takes a lot of research participants to conduct a single study,” said Mansfield.

That enthusiasm for advancing research could ultimately help diagnose, treat and prevent autoimmune diseases such as Type 1 diabetes or rheumatoid arthritis.

“Every single study we do involves volunteers from our community and the surrounding communities, so we wouldn’t be able to do any of our work if people weren’t willing to come in and be part of our work with us,” said Dr. Cate Speake, a research assistant member for BRI and the project lead for the Sound Life Project.

She values the dedication of volunteers, which requires a two-year time commitment, blood samples and weekly surveys to monitor the health of two age groups, 25 to 35 and 55 to 65.

“They are helping with these basic science questions; but those basic science questions, without answering them, it gets really hard to develop the kinds of treatments and cures we need for diseases of the immune system,” said Speake.

BRI’s mission is to predict, prevent, reverse and cure diseases to one day achieve a healthy immune system for everyone. Sound Life Project is one of their many clinical research programs that relies on volunteers — a volunteer opportunity that could lead to the next medical breakthrough.

“Getting the awareness out there that participants are needed and there are studies available that can really change science and health care, and more people should be doing it,” said Mansfield.

For information on BR, go to https://www.benaroyaresearch.org/.