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UK Biobank starts recruitment drive

10 Apr 2007

Research initiative will improve the health of future generations

UK Biobank, the multi-million pound project that will help improve knowledge of life threatening and debilitating diseases, is now underway in Manchester. Hosted by the University, the nationwide project will recruit 500,000 people aged 40-69 and track their health over at least the next 30 years.

A successful pilot study to check the feasibility of the project took place in Altrincham last year, and around 35,000 letters have now been sent to Greater Manchester residents asking them to take part in the real thing.

UK Biobank is one of the biggest and most detailed public health research initiatives ever undertaken. It will provide a valuable resource for research into a wide range of diseases, including cancer, heart disease, diabetes, mental illness and dental diseases.

Although the project may not directly benefit those who take part it should help future generations to live longer, healthier lives, by helping untangle the complex interplay of nature and nurture (non-genetic factors such as lifestyle) in the development of diseases.

People who agree to take part will attend a 90 minute assessment at a special centre in Hulme, where they will be asked about their current health and lifestyle.  They will also have measurements such as blood pressure, weight, lung function and bone density taken, and be asked to give small samples of blood and urine.

Around 15 million samples will eventually be stored in specially designed laboratories in Stockport, at temperatures of around -200°C.  Participants will be asked to allow UK Biobank to follow their health records over the coming decades, and will leave with a list of personal measurements and an indication of how they compare to standard values.

The University's Professor Alan Silman, a leading scientist in the project, said: "We are asking people to help us build a fantastic resource for future research, that will help scientists understand what causes some people and not others to develop a particular disease.  This is a great opportunity to do something that will have a positive effect on our children and our children's children."

Further information is available on the project website: