Fourth UK Biobank imaging assessment centre to open

Published: 30 January 2019 Ezine

As part of a £50 million investment in radiography-based research, UK Biobank is scheduled to open a fourth imaging assessment centre this year.

A national and international resource open to health researchers, the charity's purpose is to improve the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of a range of life-threatening illnesses including cancer, dementia and osteoarthritis.

More than 33,000 participants have been imaged and the intention is to scan a total of 100,000 people by 2022.

The assessment of individuals includes:

  • MRIs of heart chamber diameter, the volume of blood flow, and how the heart changes as it pumps blood around the body, thickness of the heart wall and the size and stiffness of the thoracic aorta
  • MRI measurement of brain structure and function, volumes of grey matter and the mapping of major brain connections
  • Dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry measures of bone density, osteoarthritic change of spine, hip and knee, fractures in the spine, and fat distribution throughout the body
  • MRI measures of abdominal fat volume including in the liver and pancreas
  • Ultrasound assessment of the carotid arteries.

Up to 18 participants a day are currently being scanned at imaging centres in Stockport, Newcastle upon Tyne and Reading. The Bristol centre is due to start scanning in the autumn.

Volunteers aged 40-69 years joined UK Biobank between 2006 and 2010. The study continues to follow their health and provides anonymised health data to approved researchers anywhere in the world undertaking research in the public good.

UK Biobank lead radiographer Stephen Hill said the study employs 50 radiographers across the country and is looking for more to join the team.

He says, “The imaging data are already being used by a wide range of researchers and results on the first 20,000 participants scanned have already been reported in journals.

“It is exciting to be at the cutting edge of research and to see how the data we collect will improve treatments.”

The Medical Research Council, Wellcome and the British Heart Foundation have funded the investment in radiography-based research.

Find out more about UK Biobank, the published papers using the imaging data collected, and the imaging study.