Biobank will collect huge amounts of private DNA data in 'altruistic' study

Wednesday, May 07, 2014 by: D Holt
Tags: biobank, DNA collection, lifestyle factors

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(NaturalNews) A study that will collect the DNA and scan the bodies of hundreds of thousands of volunteers has been started. The aim of the project, which also includes the use of health and lifestyle questionnaires, is to match the data collected to diseases that develop over the course of the lives of the volunteers. The scan data and that of the lifestyle questionnaires will then be used to analyze the effects of DNA, lifestyle and other factors on the health outcomes of the volunteers.

The organizers of the study, UK Biobank, claim that "altruistic" volunteers will be contributing to the understanding of how diseases develop and the possible development of future treatments. The project, when completed after the initial pilot, will also keep one of the largest DNA databases of non-criminal civilians in the world.

The UK Biobank project mirrors those in cities throughout the USA, China, Australia and Europe but differs in that the bodies of volunteers will be scanned using MRI, X-ray and ultrasound technology, and the volunteers will remain part of the project for many years to come.

Prof. Sir Rory Collins, Chief Executive of UK Biobank, said: "We are trying to understand why one person gets a disease and another does not. The scanning information, when analysed alongside all the existing health data, will give researchers a unique opportunity to study the causes of ill-health."

The data collected in the study also includes wide-ranging information about family histories of illness, arterial stiffness, early life factors, cognitive function, electronic device use, education and employment. The study also included the taking of urine and saliva samples.

After the initial pilot study, further scanning centers are planned throughout the UK, with the whole project due to be completed within five years.

A valuable resource with the possibility of abuse

There are huge amounts of DNA information being held by biobanks all over the world. Many of these biobanks hold human tissue samples and data from detailed questionnaires. They act as libraries for research scientists, and much of this data is used to better understand conditions caused by aging and diseases such as cancer.

There is of course the prospect of this data being used by agencies outside of the research domain. One concern is that, once data is released, it could be used for other, less altruistic reasons. One example would be for insurance agencies to use the data to predict the health outcomes of a population as part of their risk assessments.

It does not take a multi-million-dollar survey to tell us that a healthy diet improves our long term health. The valuable aspect to this project is the collection of extensive data about the many aspects of diseases and their causes over the lifetimes of a large sample of volunteers. With careful use of this data, it will be possible to define the majority of contributing factors of disease without the uncertainty of previous studies that only considered factors such as DNA or environmental factors in isolation.

As we all already know, it is only a matter of time before research shows that those who choose a diet consisting of fresh, organic foods have much better health than those who choose artificially sweetened and processed foods. Will it also show evidence of links between electronic equipment and cancer?

Further information on this subject can be found on the following websites:

About the author:
D Holt has written over 200 articles in the field of alternative health and is currently involved in research in the UK into the mechanisms involved in healing due to meditation, hypnosis and spiritual healers and techniques. Previous work has included investigations into effects of meditation on addiction, the effects of sulfites on the digestive system and the use of tartrazine and other additives in the restaurant industry. new blog is now available at or follow on twitter @sacredmeditate

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