Unprecedented Research Project

What are the genetic and environmental factors that impact human health and disease? Researchers in the United Kingdom are trying to find out, in an ethical way, through a long-term research project they hope will improve the health of future generations.

DNA: Space-filling model of a section of DNA molecule. Courtesy United States Department of Justice.

Unprecedented research project
Biobank, as the project is called, will ask 500,000 volunteers to fill out a lifestyle questionnaire and donate blood and urine samples. Over the next 20 to 30 years, the information will be tracked against medical records so that researchers can study the connection between the participants' genes, lifestyles, and the diseases and conditions they may develop.

Potential benefits versus ethical concerns
Scientists hope to use the information to learn how our genes and environment interact over the years to cause illness, and to develop new methods to prevent, diagnose, and treat disease.

But a project like this raises significant privacy concerns. To protect the participants, Biobank will encrypt the data it collects and make it anonymous so that it can't be traced back to the donor. In addition, only researchers approved by Biobank's ethics board will be able to use the information.

Your Comments, Thoughts, Questions, Ideas

bryan kennedy's picture

While it is important to be concerned about privacy, the subjects of this test will be submiting to the database completely voluntarily. That makes the privacy issues simply a matter of security.

I think this is a very interesting and innovative approcah to gene research. But it bums me out that we will have to wait 20-30 years to see the results. Although it is totally understandable.

posted on Sat, 01/21/2006 - 12:59pm
Liza's picture
Liza says:

The next phase of this project began on Tuesday, 8/23.

After the success of the initial pilot project in Manchester, researchers are now contacting possible subjects in 35 other areas.

posted on Fri, 08/25/2006 - 12:18pm

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