DNA bank to help our understanding of disease 

30/05/2013 00:00 

A major new initiative is underway to gather 10,000 DNA samples from volunteers and patients at UCLH and other UCL partner hospitals to help researchers find out how genes influence disease.

Image courtesy of Wellcome Library London, Wellcome Images

Image courtesy of Wellcome Library London, Wellcome Images

People willing to participate in research into the link between genes, the environment, health and disease will be asked to donate their DNA via a blood or saliva sample. The sample will be processed and stored for future analysis. Volunteers and patients will also be asked to agree to be contacted at a later date if they are suitable for a particular study.

The launch of the UCL BioResource initiative marks a huge step in the fight against chronic diseases such as dementia, diabetes and heart disease. 

Why is this an exciting opportunity for biomedical research?

Often research studies need to recruit large numbers of volunteers just to find enough people who fit the criteria for their research. For instance, even for a study looking at a common genetic variation occurring in as many as 1 in 10 people, researchers still need to enlist approximately 500 people to find just 50 volunteers who have that particular genetic variation.

The aim of UCL BioResource is to build up a massive bank of 10,000 DNA samples, together with information about each volunteer’s ethnicity and gender. Researchers will then be able to identify individuals who could help them and invite them to take part in a study. This means it will now be possible to carry out valuable research into the causes of diseases that previously would have proven too costly or time-consuming.

Recruitment of volunteers for the UCL BioResource will begin in the summer 2013. The aim is to recruit potential patients and volunteers through posters, leaflets and adverts across UCLH and UCL partner hospitals, as well as other clinical sites such as GP surgeries and rehabilitation centres.

Dr Kirstin Goldring, UCL Biobank and BioResource Coordinator, said: “This exciting UCL initiative will give UCLH patients and healthy volunteers opportunities to become actively involved in medical research, which will help lead to better understanding or a range of conditions and lead to development of new treatments.”

The intiaitve will provide a powerful resource for studying the mechanisms of disease and the benefits and limitations of new treatments.

UCL BioResource is one of seven centres in the nationwide NIHR BioResource project, providing researchers with access to suitable candidates for research studies on an unprecedented scale.  The BioResource project currently has a core base of 20,000 volunteers, with plans to increase to over 100,000 by 2017.

What will be involved for those who participate?

Volunteers will donate a small 22.2ml blood sample, which will be used to extract a sample of their DNA and will be asked for their consent to be contacted for research projects that have a need for their genetic make-up. When a researcher is looking for volunteers, BioResource staff will identify potential volunteers and analyse their DNA samples using advanced laboratory techniques. This may include determining the sequence of all or part of an individual DNA code. Individuals with the appropriate genetic make-up can then be invited to participate in the study.

For queries about the UCLBioResource, including how to participate, call 020 7679 6457 or e-mail Dr Kirstin Goldring, UCL Biobank and BioResource Coordinator on k.goldring@ucl.ac.uk  

Visit the NIHR Bioresource web page for more information.


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