East London genome project recruiting 100,000 volunteers (Wired UK)


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The world’s largest community genetics study has launched in
East London and will
see 100,000 people of south Asian descent have their genomes
sequenced
. The project is aimed at improving health among
people with Pakistani and Bangladeshi heritage

Led by Queen
Mary University of London (QMUL)
, the study is being supported
by £4m in funding from the Wellcome
Trust
and the Medical Research Council. Researchers will study
participants’ genes alongside their medical records, and hope to
improve the links between genes and environmental factors in
causing disease. They are not only hoping to develop better
treatment for these and other healthcare problems, but discover
long-term prevention solutions.

The community has been targeted as the East London boroughs have
high rates of poor health, with Tower Hamlets and Neham having the
lowest life expectancy of all London’s boroughs. Poor health is
particularly prevalent among the Pakistani and Bangladeshi
populations in these areas. The risk of dying early from heart
disease is twice as high among people from south Asian communities
than the rest of the UK, and they are also five times more likely
to suffer from type 2 diabetes.

Professor David van Heel who is co-leading the study at QMUL
pointed out that south Asian people are also markedly
underrepresented in medical research, meaning they are otherwise
unlikely to benefit from advances in genetics. “We aim to change
this and we need local support to make it happen,” he says.

“By recruiting 100,000 people from the local community, we are
giving East London people the opportunity to play a key role in
improving the health of future generations, including enhancing our
understanding of why certain people get diseases and the
development of improved treatment and prevention.”

The study has so far had 46 people in local leadership roles
enrol, and is now opening up recruitment, by seeking participants
aged 16 and over — with and without health problems — from
several East London boroughs.

All volunteers will donate a saliva sample that will be examined
for genetic information and be examined in light of the
particpants’ health records. Samples can be donated at GP
surgeries, mosques, community centres or in the privacy of the
home.

“It’s just spitting in a test tube and answering a few
questions, but in doing so you’ll be making a valuable contribution
to the future of healthcare, for the next generations, both locally
and beyond,” says van Heel.

The study will involve two separate stages, with the initial
stage taking place over the next four years. The focus for this
part of the study will be on recruiting the 100,000 people that the
study hopes to include. Stage two, which is set to run until 2034,
will focus on using the data gathered to support medical research,
both in the UK and abroad.

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13 March 2015 | 12:29 pm – Source: wired.co.uk

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