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Imaging breakthrough may 'unlock health secrets'

18 April 2016 08:10

MRI scans are being used in a new study

MRI scans are being used in a new study

Revolutionary research could find markers for diseases like Alzheimer's years ahead of the illnesses even developing, scientists believe.

This could pave the way for developing fresh ways of treating patients, the UK Biobank Imaging Expert Working Group says. Its leaders put its importance akin to the initial link made between smoking and lung cancer .

The study project revolves around imaging and is the biggest of its type in the world. Nowhere else has there been a larger gathering of scans showing internal organs.

As many as 100,000 people will be scanned by high-tech imaging procedures, such as MRI machines.

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Trailblazing study...

Previously researchers have only had hundreds of patients' scans to draw upon in their studies.

This new research will expand the database to tens of thousands of scans, greatly improving the "quality" and "scope" of the studies.

Paul Matthews, the working group's chairman and Imperial College London's head of brain sciences division, says the new British-based study could potentially:

• help develop fresh methods for treating patients

• detect diseases at the earliest possible time

• unlock data on the risk factors marking possible illness

What the expert says

Prof Matthews says this one huge study has massive advantages over previous smaller-scale ones, including lower costs. He says the research has the potential to find clues to Alzheimer's and other diseases earlier than ever before.

Prof Matthews thinks the new UK Biobank initiative could help scientists to look at health in a holistic fashion.

The British Heart Foundation, Medical Research Council and Wellcome Trust are all financially backing the project.

Experts say it could revolutionise the way in which researchers study dementia, strokes, heart attacks, arthritis, cancer and other illnesses.