LONDON — A project to collect DNA samples from half a million Britons to unpick the genetic basis of killer diseases including cancer got the go-ahead on Tuesday, marking the start of the world’s biggest medical experiment. A team of international scientific and medical experts said the success of a local three-month pilot phase, involving 3,800 participants around Manchester, meant the UK Biobank project could now be rolled out nationwide from the end of 2006. Over the next four years, blood and urine samples will be collected from volunteers aged 40 to 69, to help scientists unravel the genetic foundations of common diseases, including cancer, heart disease, diabetes, dementia and joint problems. ‘For decades to come, the UK Biobank resource should provide researchers around the world with vital insights into some of the most distressing diseases of middle and old age,’ principal investigator Professor Rory Collins said in a statement. The mapping of the human genome in 2000 opened the door to the detailed analysis of genes but experts are still grappling to understand how they interact with lifestyle and environment to determine why some people become sick and others do not. In the long […]

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