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Insight blog: Posts tagged with big data

Stories about the people, science and research of the Medical Research Council.

How secure data sharing can help us treat dementia

29 Aug 2018

Dementias Platform UK is a world-leading digital treasure trove, holding health data from millions of people, to help understand and treat dementia. Their one-stop shop gives researchers access to health data for dementia research and recognises contributions from researchers across the pay grade. Director Professor John Gallacher explains why it’s good for science and scientists.

Professor John Gallacher, Director of the Dementias Platform UK

Professor John Gallacher, Director of the Dementias Platform UK

In the UK, we’re fortunate to have a growing, rich resource of data from people that take part in studies which follow their health and lifestyle choices over time, known as cohort studies.

But there isn’t a single standardised way of storing and analysing this information. Without the right tools to search, interrogate and analyse this information, the data can seem impenetrable.

At Dementias Platform UK (DPUK) we have a solution – a place for researchers to access all the data they need to answer some of the toughest questions about dementia. We want the best minds to access the best data, regardless of their location.  [...]

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The power of big data

26 Jun 2018

Patient data has the power to revolutionise our approach to medical research and help improve human health. We’re funding scientists to use big data to tackle some of the biggest health challenges, including neurodegeneration. Here Ed Pinches, from Alzheimer’s Research UK, tells us why access to large data sets is so important in our fight against dementia.

It’s the hot topic, the subject dominating much of the latest news. Data. Your data. How it is used, how it is stored, who gets to access it, and for what purpose?

[...]

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New tools help show what genes do

3 Nov 2016

To understand the roles of different genes, Dr James Brown and colleagues at the MRC Harwell Institute are part of a project trying to find out what every single mouse gene does. To help speed things along, they have developed new software to analyse images of mouse embryos.

black mouse
Our 20,000 genes provide the instructions for everything our body does. But we don’t yet know what each one is responsible for. We share 90 percent of our genes with mice so finding out their ‘function’ could help us understand more about human disease. [...]

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It’s time to recognise the benefits of medical data use

4 Jul 2016

Using medical data may help improve public health services and help identify patterns of disease, which could lead to more effective practices for prevention. Our head of clinical ethics and data, Dr Jon Fistein, argues that we should say more about these benefits.

It is widely recognised that routinely-collected health data can be used to improve the healthcare provided to individuals and to communities. The US Institute of Medicine champions the ‘learning healthcare system’ in which routinely-collected data are used to drive better, more efficient medical practice and patient care. Indeed, many argue that such uses of data are the only ways to improve services, reduce waste and make health service provision sustainable. [...]

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UK Biobank: looking at the whole person

14 Apr 2016

Today, the UK Biobank has launched the largest body scanning project in the world. Funded by the MRC, Wellcome Trust and British Heart Foundation, the biobank will scan 100,000 people to provide images of their brains, hearts, bones, carotid arteries and abdominal fat. Head of the Division of Brain Sciences at Imperial College London Professor Paul Matthews is one of the academic experts who have been supporting UK Biobank to create this resource and he tells us how it could prove invaluable to all areas of medicine.

Professor Paul Matthews

Building the bank
Over 10 years, the UK Biobank has recruited and gathered a wealth of high quality information from 500,000 people across the country. These people have donated blood, urine and saliva samples, provided detailed health, lifestyle and environment information and agreed to allow the biobank to follow their GP and hospital records throughout life.

Now we will be adding sophisticated imaging to enrich our understanding of the origins and progression of the major diseases of later life. [...]

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Working Life: computational biologist Dr Shamith Samarajiwa

12 Feb 2016

Dr Shamith Samarajiwa’s computational biology group is the newest team at the MRC Cancer Unit. His group develops multi-disciplinary data science, data engineering and computational biology solutions to understand the complex biological systems involved in carcinogenesis. 

Dr Shamith Samarajiwa

Dr Shamith Samarajiwa (Copyright: Johannes Hjorth)

Career in brief

This is an exciting time to be dealing with biomedical data. In a world poised and waiting for personalised medicine, computational biology will help us to detect cancer sooner by realising the potential of big datasets. There are millions of datasets already out there but these are completely underutilised. [...]

Continue reading: Working Life: computational biologist Dr Shamith Samarajiwa