Researchers have launched the largest ever project to scan the internal workings of the human body with the hope of achieving massive medical breakthroughs in the foreseeable future.
In particular, it is hoped that it will be possible for scientists and medics to treat diseases before they actually happen as a result of this massive scanning project.
In order to develop this technique, the brains, hearts, bones, arteries and body fat of some 100,000 volunteers will be scanned to create a massive database as part of the UK Biobank study.
It is hoped that once this research has been carried out that researchert will be able to identify early warning signs across a vast range of conditions including dementia, heart disease, diabetes, stroke, osteoporosis and arthritis.
As this technique is developed it could then be possible for doctors to spot diseases before there are even any noticeable problems, although the timescale of this technique is probably in the region of 15 years.
The £43 million project has been funded by the Government, the Wellcome Trust and the British Heart Foundation.
Professor Paul Matthews, of Imperial College London, who chairs the academics who support UK Biobank, believes that the research could have an incredibly dramatic and beneficial impact on medicine, and that scientists are excited about the potential of this project.
“This imaging is going to help us understand risk factors that could prevent future diseases, just as the discovery of smoking and the link to long cancer has changed the entire prevalence of that disease. We may also find out how to find the earliest changes in disease, discovering markers for disease like Alzheimer’s years before they ever happen, to allow doctors and clinicians to think about treating people before the disease really starts to express itself.”
And Dr Sara Marshall, head of clinical research at the Wellcome Trust believes that the research will enable doctors to “chronicle disease in a way never attempted before.”
Marshall suggested that the research will enable the mysteries of the human body to be laid bare, and will make it possible for researchers to have a completely different and more holistic understanding of the anatomy of human beings.
“Each day we’re discovering more and more about how genetics and lifestyle play a part in the onset and development of diseases, but this extra piece of the puzzle – seeing physical changes even before symptoms develop – will give us a completely new perspective on how we can prevent and treat them.”
The UK Biobank project was set up back in 2006, with the intention of collecting an array of medical data on people all over the United Kingdom.
George Freeman, Life Sciences Minister, welcomed the launch of this project, and suggested that it bodes well for the position of Britain in the global medical picture.
“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.”