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World’s largest imaging study scans 50,000th participant

50,000th UK Biobank participant has been scanned in the world’s most ambitious imaging study

A Glasgow resident became the 50,000th volunteer to take part in the world’s most ambitious internal organ imaging study. Collection of these data is helping scientists to diagnose, treat, and potentially prevent diseases like dementia, heart disease, athritis and cancer.

Peter undertook a 5 hour assessment to scan his heart, brain, abdomen and bones at UK Biobank’s imaging centre in Newcastle. By capturing a vast amount of images of the human body during both good and ill health, combined with the genetic and lifestyle data already held on half a million participants, it will help scientists to understand why one person develops a life-altering disease when others do not. UK Biobank aims to scan up to 100,000 participants of its half a million cohort, the largest endeavour of its kind, and these data will be made available to approved researchers globally. 

Dr Craig, 61, travelled from Glasgow to the assessment centre in the heart of Newcastle and said:

"Providing data that may help prevent and treat life-limiting diseases could not be more important. Large numbers matter in this kind of research. Getting to 50,000 is a real achievement, and a good sign that the target of 100,000 is within reach."

Dr Peter Craig

Over 93,0001 volunteers from Newcastle and surrounding areas joined UK Biobank between 2006 and 2010. Participants who have been invited to take part in an imaging assessment are encouraged to come forward like Peter did.

Professor Marcus Kaiser, Professor of Neuroinformatics at University of Nottingham and visiting Professor at Newcastle University, leads a team of researchers who are using brain imaging scans from the UK Biobank biomedical database for their research. He said:

"A key benefit of the UK Biobank, in addition to being the largest MRI database worldwide, is that some participants are scanned several times. This allows us to see how changes in their brains are linked to cognitive changes or later onset of diseases. We are working on models that can predict the development of Dementia based on changes in brain connections."

Professor Marcus Kaiser

Professor Naomi Allen, Chief Scientist at UK Biobank, said: "We are incredibly grateful to all UK Biobank participants for their support and generosity in attending an imaging assessment. Having imaging scans on such a large scale will enable research into the mechanisms of disease and may lead to early prevention methods and more effective treatments for a wide range of diseases."

The UK Biobank imaging assessment centres in Stockport and Reading support the work of Newcastle scanning centre, whilst the centre in Bristol is currently being used to ease pressures on the NHS.

The UK Biobank imaging study is funded by the Medical Research Council, Wellcome Trust and the British Heart Foundation.

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137,000 from Newcastle, 18,000 from Glasgow, 17,000 from Edinburgh and 21,000 from Middlesborough.