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Image of the week: Full body fat scan

15 Apr, 2016

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Have you ever wondered where fat is lurking in your body? This scan of fat distribution reveals all. 100,000 of these scans will be carried out between now and 2020 as part of an ambitious new study at UK Biobank.

As well as fat, they’ll also be collecting scans of the brain, heart, bones and carotid arteries of participants. It will create the biggest collection of scans of internal organs, and transform the way scientists study a wide range of diseases, including dementia, arthritis, cancer, heart attacks and strokes.

All of these scans, along with the vast amount of data UK Biobank already hold on participants, will create a one-of-a-kind resource for researchers. For the last ten years UK Biobank has gathered huge quantities of data on its 500,000 participants – including their lifestyle, weight, height, diet, physical activity and cognitive function, as well as genetic data from blood samples. Linkage to a wide range of health records is also under way, including data from general practices.

With all of this data researchers can begin to answer intriguing questions like ‘does having a lot of abdominal fat affect someone’s chances of developing dementia?’ The imaging will also help doctors understand risk factors that could help prevent diseases, so that one day earlier targeted treatment, or changes in lifestyle, could prevent major diseases from ever happening.

Image credit: Jimmy Bell, University of Westminster and AMRA

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