World's biggest body scanning study launches with support from us.

13 April 2016        

Category: Research

A woman preparing to undergo an MRI scan

The world's largest health imaging study launched today. It will create the biggest collection of scans of internal organs, and transform the way scientists study a wide range of diseases including heart attacks and strokes.

Your donations, alongside funding from the Medical Research Council (MRC) and the Wellcome Trust, have funded the £40m study. Researchers will image the brain, heart, bones, carotid arteries (which carry blood to the brain and face) and abdominal fat of 100,000 people who have all volunteered to be part of UK Biobank.

What is UK Biobank?

Biobank logo

In 2006 the MRC and the Wellcome Trust set up UK Biobank to create a research resource to improve health made up of information about half a million people across the UK. The visionary project is led by Sir Rory Collins, a BHF Professor at the University of Oxford.

Over the past ten years UK Biobank has gathered huge quantities of data on its 500,000 volunteers – including their lifestyle, weight, height, diet, physical activity and brain function, as well as genetic data from blood samples. This data is already being linked to a wide range of health records, including GP data.

Find out more about the importance of your medical records in improving health.

How will these new scans help?

The new imaging scans will be an important addition to the vast amount of data already collected. The data will be available to health scientists and help them get new perspectives on improving prevention and treatment of complex conditions like coronary heart disease, which are caused by multiple factors like genetics and lifestyle.

BHF Professor Sir Rory Collins explains how this study will help cardiovascular researchers.

As so many scans will need to be carried out, the study itself will spark new ways to analyse and interpret scans. This could improve imaging research and how we diagnose patients in the future using these techniques.

Funding research in collaboration

WestminsterThis UK Biobank study has been made possible by joining forces with the Wellcome Trust, which is another medical research charity, and the MRC, which is funded by the Government.

George Freeman MP, Life Sciences Minister for the Government, said: "Stunning advances in imaging and informatics are opening up new ways to diagnose, treat and potentially prevent diseases like dementia, heart disease and cancer. Our £20 million investment in this – the world’s biggest collection of imaging data – is helping make the UK a world leader in 21st century life science."

Building on a pilot project we funded

Professor Steffen Petersen, of the Barts Heart Centre and Queen Mary University of London, led the development of the heart imaging process being used. He did this thanks to a Project Grant funded by your donations.

"Heart disease is still an all too frequent and unexpected cause of death. This imaging study offers us real insight into the heart itself on a scale hitherto impossible to imagine. This is a fantastic resource for researchers both in the UK and overseas. I know many who can’t wait to see the data and start using it to improve health."

Our Associate Medical Director, Professor Jeremy Pearson, said: "These scans will allow researchers to investigate heart health in greater detail than has ever been done before.

"This study could not only help us to better prevent and treat heart disease in the future but make current MRI techniques for scanning the heart faster and more effective. Improving diagnosis of heart disease will save lives by driving earlier and more targeted treatment to prevent heart attacks."

Help find future treatments

We can only fund research with the support of our donors and volunteers. Your continued generosity is helping us to fund research to find future treatments for heart disease and many other deadly conditions.