University of Leicester Academics Join £45 million Study That Could Help Lead Us to the Causes of Many Major Diseases
team of academics at the University of Leicester are to play a leading role in a
£45 million national study that could make a major contribution to our
understanding of the causes of common life-threatening and debilitating
illnesses such as breast cancer, diabetes, heart disease and Alzheimer's
will host the administration centre for a consortium of seven universities
tasked with recruiting 120,000 patients from GPs surgeries across the Trent,
West Midlands and South West Regions. These patients will become part of half a
million people nationally who will have their genetic make-up and lifestyles
studied over a 15-year period under the ambitious UK Biobank project, being
funded by the Medical Research Council, the Wellcome Trust and the Department of
allowing the researchers to follow their health over this time, the volunteers
could be helping to save the lives of thousands of people in generations to come
- possibly even their own grandchildren.
the past, studies have only been able to take into account lifestyle issues,
such as diet and exercise, when predicting what factors may increase the risk of
certain diseases. However, recent breakthroughs in the human genome project,
which have already identified the function of many genes, mean that through
simple blood tests the Biobank project will be able to study participants'
genetic information as well and to see how the genes interact with lifestyle.
Paul Burton, who is based in the University of Leicester's Department of Health
Sciences and Institute of Genetics, and who is leading the team from Leicester
said: "This is a very exciting study. It will help us to tie together
genetic information from the human genome project with the major diseases that
affect our modern society. This will help us to understand how genes and life
style work together to make us healthy or unwell. This should not only help
medical scientists to develop new treatments, but it will also allow us to
target health promotion more successfully and to give a clearer message to
people about what factors might substantially increase their personal risk of
developing a serious illness and what they might be able to do to stay fit and
Nilesh Samani, British Heart Foundation Professor of Cardiology at the
University of Leicester, is heading up Leicester's clinical team on the project.
He said: "This is a bold step by the government and the funding agencies -
to follow the health and lifestyle of half a million people over 15 years is a
huge undertaking. However, the end benefits of the project could be enormous and
we look forward to working with the people of Leicester and the whole of Trent.
By donating their time, these volunteers could realistically help us to pinpoint
the causes of many common diseases - in short they could help us to save
thousands of lives."
half a million healthy people aged between 45 and 69 recruited to the study will
each be examined by a nurse researcher, give blood samples and will fill out an
initial questionnaire on their diet and lifestyle. The participants will then be
followed over a period of at least 15 years to see whether their lifestyle
changes and whether they develop diseases such as cancer, heart disease or
research teams will then study the genetic information and the lifestyle choices
that individuals have made in order to identify any patterns and to determine
the major risk factors for these diseases.
of the figures will start as soon as there is a large enough sample for the
academics to work on. For example, statistics show that as many as one in three
people in the UK Biobank age range may develop some form of heart disease within
a five to seven-year period, whereas with breast cancer it will probably take
between 10 to 15 years for enough cases to accumulate to allow analysis.
to the study will be completely voluntary. Subjects will be informed of any
health findings on their initial check up that may require investigation.
However, in line with current international best practice in research ethics,
participants will not be given the results of their genetic testing. This will
help to avoid causing unwarranted anxiety about genetic factors that we are many
years away from understanding properly and will help to protect individuals from
unreasonable demands for information from, for example, insurance companies.
Participants will, however, receive a regular newsletter about the study that
will keep them up-to-date on the overall findings of the study.
well as hosting the Administration Centre for the study, Leicester will house
one component of the Trent Regional Collection Centre, along with the
universities of Nottingham and Sheffield.
with the universities of Birmingham and Warwick, which will form a regional
collection centre for the West Midlands, and the universities of Bristol and the
Peninsula Medical School, forming a collection centre in the South West region,
they will form UK Biobank's Fosse Way 'spoke' which will receive around £7
million in funding for this study. Other spokes are to be created in Wales,
Scotland, Oxford and London - together covering the recruitment of patients from
all over England, Scotland and Wales. The information collected by these
'spokes' will then be sent through to a main 'hub' based in Manchester, where
the quality of the data can be checked and the analysis of the figures overseen.
In all, the nation is investing £45 Million to set up this ambitious project.
information is available from Prof Paul Burton on 0116 252 3156
The UK Biobank is a major
UK-based resource that will be used by the world's top scientists to explore the
roles of nature and nurture in health and disease. The project will involve up
to 500 000 volunteers, aged 45-69, who will complete lifestyle questionnaires
and provide a blood sample for DNA and other analysis. This information,
together with their medical histories, will be combined to create an anonymised
national database - the UK Biobank. This will serve as a resource for scientists
to investigate and determine the factors that cause the common disorders of
later life, such as heart disease, cancer, Parkinson's disease, and type 2
diabetes. National and international experts in the field have rigorously and
independently reviewed the science of the project, which has the support of a
number of leading research charities. It is being funded jointly by the
biomedical research charity the Wellcome Trust, the Medical Research Council and
the Department of Health.
UK Biobank enters new phase [joint press release issued by The Wellcome Trust, Medical Research Council and the Department of Health]
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