April 2007

UK Biobank Project

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The UK Biobank project is huge in size, vision and potential. This multi-million pound medical project endeavours to recruit 500,000 people aged 40-69 across Britain and track their health over the course of next three decades or more. This will help facilitate the cure of many life threatening and debilitating diseases. The project already took off in Manchester, on 21 March 2007.

UK Biobank Project reflects the awesome potential that electronic and ICT applications in health sector can imply in terms of welfare, for the tomorrow's brave new world…

The UK Biobank project is sure to create a healthcare model for the world to follow in the near future. Hosted by the University of Manchester, UK Biobank Project is one of the biggest and most detailed public health research initiatives of our time. It will provide a valuable resource for research into a wide range of diseases including cancer, heart disease, diabetes, dementia, mental illness, Parkinson's disease, joint and dental disease and many other life-threatening and debilitating conditions.

Here it deserves a mention that UK Biobank is a major UK medical
research initiative, and a registered charity in its own right, with the aim of improving the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of a wide range of serious and lifethreatening illnesses, including cancer, heart diseases, diabetes, arthritis and forms of dementia.

The UK Biobank project is huge in size, vision and potential. This multi-million pound medical project endeavours to recruit 500,000 people aged 40-69 across Britain and track their health over the course of next three decades or more. This will help facilitate the cure of many life threatening and debilitating diseases. The project already took off in Manchester, on 21 March 2007.

In the first phase of a fouryear recruitment process, about 10,000 letters asking people to take part in the UK Biobank project were being sent. Tens of thousands more invitations will be sent throughout the course of the year to people across Manchester, asking them to join this exciting project. A successful pilot study to check the feasibility of this huge undertaking took place in Altrincham (south Manchester) last year. UK Biobank will recruit in Manchester for about one year. People who receive letters asking them to participate will be offered an appointment time and date. However, if they found the timing inconvenient, they can change it.

People in Manchester who agree to take part in the UK Biobank project will attend a 90 minute assessment at a special centre in Hulme, south Manchester. They will be asked to allow UK Biobank
to follow them through routine health records over many years. The assessment centre will open in April 2007.

Participants will be asked about their current health and lifestyle and will have a number of measurements taken, such as blood pressure, weight, lung function and bone density. They will also be asked to give small samples of blood and urine. Though not a health check, participants will leave with a list of personalhealthrelated measurementsand some indication of how they compare to standard values. However, here it deserves a mention that taking part in the UK Biobank project is entirely voluntary and participants can withdraw at any time should they wish to do so.

According to Dr. Tim Peakman, UK Biobank's Executive Director, “At the assessment centre we will obtain the consent of people who want to join UK Biobank and collect what we call baseline information about their health and well being. Along with the blood and urine samples, this will provide important data for scientists of the future when they are trying to work out what causes some people, and not others, to develop a particular disease.” He added, “The UK Biobank resource will help untangle the complex interplay of nature (that is, genes) and nurture (such as lifestyle) in the development of many different diseases. Its goal is not to focus on genes alone, which may be better done through other sorts of study.”

This project is geared to benefit the future generations and not the present generation, a sample of whom(the participants) would be health-monitored during the project. According to Peakman, “Though UK Biobank may not directly benefit those who take part, it will help our children and our children's children to live longer, healthier lives. A willingness to help others in this altruistic way will, I hope, be a powerful motivation for many people to take part.”

It is aimed that if this project attains success, around 15 million blood and urine samples will eventually be stored for decades in specially designed laboratories near Manchester, at temperatures down to about -200

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