Samples from Generation Scotland participants are available for further research.
Generation Scotland is a resource of human biological samples and data for medical research. During their visits to a GS clinic between 2006 and 2011, participants contributed blood and urine, as well as clinical measurements such as blood pressure, and information about their health and lifestyle. The vast majority have also given permission for researchers to link to information from their medical records. This allows past, present and future analyses of which medicines have been prescribed, the lab tests that have been run, and whether participants have been admitted to hospital.
The GS samples that were collected and are available for research allow measurement of “biomarkers”. Examples of biomarkers include everything from basic chemistries (for example sodium, potassium, cholesterol) to more complex laboratory tests (for example proteins such as hemoglobin or albumin) in blood and urine. By studying samples collected and stored from people several years before they became unwell, or before they were prescribed a drug, scientists can test a wide range of hypotheses about the factors that together help to predict the risk of disease and the best medicines to treat it. The stored samples therefore become increasingly valuable as time goes by.
Research using serum and urine
The first use of serum samples in GS involved almost 1,600 participants. This showed that the “swine flu” outbreak of winter 2009-2010 was much more widespread than was previously realized. Blood samples taken at the end of that H1N1 flu season showed that almost half were carrying antibodies to the virus, therefore many cases of swine flu went unreported. The research, led by the University of Edinburgh, was carried out in collaboration with the University of Strathclyde, Health Protection Scotland and West of Scotland Specialist Virology Centre, funded by the Chief Scientist Office.
Another use of biochemical materials was in the Europe-wide collaborative project “EU-MASCARA” (see link below), which aims to improve diagnosis of cardiovascular disease (CVD) – a major cause of morbidity and mortality – and prediction of cardiovascular risk by analysing a panel of biomarkers in both serum and urine samples. EU-MASCARA is making use of a range of patient and population cohorts from different European regions, of which the Generation Scotland Scottish Family Health Study is one. The Generation Scotland resource is particularly well suited for assessment of risk prediction models in people where risk factors (such as smoking, obesity) may be present, but advanced CVD has not yet been diagnosed. The EU-MASCARA consortium is coordinated by the University of Glasgow and has received funding from the European Community’s Seventh Framework Programme.
Completed projects using biochemical materials include studies on ageing, cardiovascular disease and reproductive health. Several other approved projects are currently in different stages of development and new findings are anticipated.
We welcome enquiries from researchers who may be able to use the biochemical materials in their projects. If you have any questions or would like to submit a research proposal for a study using biochemical materials, please contact us.
By Shona Kerr
Generation Scotland resources