Thousands of people in Manchester and the north west of England will be the first to undergo detailed imaging of their brains, hearts, bones and blood vessels, as part of a major enhancement to the UK Biobank project.
The images will help scientists to study a wide range of diseases, including dementia and cancer, and heart, bone and brain disorders.
It is hoped that UK Biobank participants, who first volunteered for the project around six years ago, will help again to create the most detailed study of its kind ever undertaken.
Building work is all but completed on the multi-million pound imaging centre at the UK Biobank headquarters in Cheadle, Stockport in preparation for the start this spring. Two magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanners (weighing 7 and 5 tons, respectively) will obtain many of the crucial images.
This next phase of the UK Biobank project is the biggest and boldest yet. Researchers have never attempted to image so many people and the additional information it provides for research may help to transform understanding of illnesses that cause disability, pain and premature death.
The scanning centre, and other developments within the resource, will help maintain UK Biobank’s presence at the heart of health research for decades to come.
Professor Rory Collins, UK Biobank Principal Investigator, said: “UK Biobank is one of the major health research success stories of recent decades. It is inspiring that so many people want to contribute in this way to tackle disease. “Adding this detailed extra information from images will help in many ways. For instance, it should identify early changes that increase the risk of developing a disease, and it may suggest new ways to slow that process, or to prevent the disease altogether.”
The project aims to image 100,000 participants over the course of the next few years from around the UK. The first invitations go out in early Spring, with thousands more to follow. Once the Manchester imaging centre is up and running, the same exercise will be repeated in other centres around the country over the next few years. This will give many participants the opportunity to help in this pioneering piece of research.
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