UK Biobank, a healthcare charity in the U.K. focused on improving the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of illnesses including dementia, is launching a large-scale feasibility study which, if successful, will enable it to conduct a dementia-related imaging study involving 100,000 participants.
Currently about 500,000 adults between the ages of 40 and 69 are enrolled in UK Biobank and have already provided blood and urine samples, undergone fitness and cognitive testing, and responded to questionnaires about lifestyle. In the proposed study, 100,000 of them will be asked to undergo a series of multi-modality, multi-organ imaging studies.
"We are trying to understand why one person gets a disease and another does not," Rory Collins, chief executive of UK Biobank, told BBC. "The scanning information, when analyzed alongside all the existing health data, will give researchers a unique opportunity to study the causes of ill-health."
Researchers expect to capture about 9,000 cases of Alzheimer's disease among the 100,000 participants, due to the natural aging process, according to Siemens, which is involved in the project.
"New clues suggest that we need to broaden our research focus on the brain in the context of the whole body and the way it changes with age to find the triggers for Alzheimer's and vascular dementia," said Paul Matthews, head of the division of brain sciences at Imperial College, London, who led a team of experts who designed the imaging project. "We need to study people before and in the earliest stages to confirm mechanisms and test new drugs."
The Obama administration, last spring, launched a long-term effort to examine the human brain and build a map of its activity. Advances in artificial intelligence and increased understanding of Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases, among other illnesses, are among the goals set for the project--dubbed the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative.