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Biobank gets a go-ahead for the world’s biggest medical research

The UK Biobank plans to collect DNA samples from 5,00,000 Britons to unravel the genetic basis of several killer diseases including cancer, heart disease, diabetes,// dementia and joint problems. This project was approved on Tuesday.

Since a local three-month pilot phase, involving 3,800 participants around Manchester succeeded, it means that the UK Biobank project can conduct it at a national level from the end of 2006, according to a team of international scientific and medical experts.

"For decades to come, the UK Biobank resource should provide researchers around the world with vital insights into some of the most distressing diseases of middle and old age," principal investigator Professor Rory Collins said in a statement.

The human genome mapping in 2000, triggered the detailed analysis of genes. Interaction of these genes with life and environment to influence some people to fall sick – is still a mystery!

Scientists believe the project could improve prevention, diagnosis and treatment of diseases and could reveal why people react differently to medications. The Medical Research Council (MRC), the Wellcome Trust, the Department of Health, the Scottish Executive and the North West Regional Development Agency are funding the £61m project.

Blood and urine samples will be collected from volunteers aged 40 to 69, in the next 4 years. Men and women in this age group will be invited through letters to attend one of the network of assessment centres to be set up in locations around the UK. There will be approximately 35 centres in England, Scotland and Wales, each open for about 6months, in a 3 to 4 year enrollment period. These centers will be situated in localities with around 1,50,000 men and women aged 40-69 living within a 10-mile radius.

An enormous collection of medical data and materials will be gathered, stored and protected in this project. The idea is to have a rich reserve of data for
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