UK Biobank is collecting pictures of participants’ brains, hearts and bones to help researchers study a wide range of common, chronic and life-threatening conditions like diabetes, cancer and heart disease.
Many thousands of UK Biobank participants living close to the purpose built facility in Cheadle, Stockport are currently being invited to take part. The project then intends to establish an imaging centre in other cities so that as many UK Biobank participants as possible can take part if they wish. The feasibility study is funded by the Medical Research Council (MRC).
“We are grateful to all participants who have given up so much of their time to help medical research so far. Their contribution is already helping innovative research studies,” said Professor Rory Collins, UK Biobank’s Principal Investigator.
The following types of imaging are being undertaken:
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): This type of scan uses painless magnetic waves to take detailed pictures of the inside of the body (such as organs, tissues and bones). We take two scans: one of the brain and the other of the heart and of the body (mainly covering the abdomen). The scanners are similar to those used in the NHS, except for being a little wider so that people are as comfortable as possible.
• Brain MRI scan: This is providing information about the structure and function of the brain. It allows us to obtain information on, for example, which parts of the brain are important for carrying out certain tasks and how different parts of the brain are connected.
• Heart and body MRI scan: This provides information on the size of the heart chambers and blood vessels, and changes in heart size as it beats. It also provides detailed information on the amount and distribution of fat in the body.
Neck artery ultrasound scan: This scan uses ultrasound (high-frequency sound waves) to produce pictures of the blood vessels on either side of the neck, which allows scientists to study the build-up of fatty substances (like cholesterol) in these major blood vessels.
Dual-Energy X-ray Absorptiometry (DXA) scan: This scan uses low energy X-rays to provide a precise measure of bone density throughout the body. Pictures of the spine, hips and knees help scientists studying diseases like arthritis.
Visit the UK Biobank Imaging website: http://imaging.ukbiobank.ac.uk/
BBC Health Correspondent Fergus Walsh was the first UK Biobank participant to undergo the imaging assessment. More information and a video can be found here.
Fergus has also written about UK Biobank’s cognitive function questionnaire which will support data collected from brain imaging.