The immense value of UK Biobank as a resource for studying the genetics behind complex traits and diseases is demonstrated for the first time in a genetic study of lung health, published today. With all genotype data from UK Biobank to be made available next year, here Professor of Genetic Epidemiology and Public Health at the University of Leicester Martin Tobin shares his experience and exciting study findings.
The ALICE super computer at the University of Leicester, which processed the data (Image credit: University of Leicester)
UK Biobank is the largest European biobank available to date. Set up in 2006 and part-funded by the MRC, it is a huge resource containing data from 502,682 UK individuals. Participants have provided a range of information about their lifestyles, physical characteristics and health, and they will be followed up for at least 25 years.
We were really excited about the potential value of this data to our research which led us to conduct the first ever genetic association analyses in UK Biobank, the UK Biobank Lung Exome Variant Evaluation (UK BiLEVE) study.
By extracting DNA from participants’ banked blood samples, we analysed the genomes of a subset of UK Biobank participants, 50,008 in total selected according to their measures of lung health and whether or not they smoked. Read more
Sarah Harrop talks to public health researcher Cari Free about Txt2stop, text message-based support for smokers, in the third of a series of scientist profiles taken from our Annual Review 2011/12.
In January 2012 the Department of Health launched an affordable mobile phone support programme for smokers, which has been proven to double quit rates. This programme was developed for UK patients by Dr Cari Free at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) with MRC funding. Around 1,000 smokers are now signing up each month.
Cari’s office at the LSHTM is high-ceilinged and airy. The walls are lined with medical textbooks on everything from cancer to condoms. It’s here that she works four days a week as a senior lecturer, leading research studies in public health. On the fifth day of the week she’s a GP in South London which keeps her in touch with some of the patients her research will benefit.
Smoking is a notorious public health problem, causing heart attacks, stroke and lung cancer and it’s fast becoming an epidemic in developing countries like India and China. So affordable and effective ways to help people quit are in higher demand than ever. Read more