Largest nationwide health study NAKO in Berlin: 3,000th participant examined in MRI scanner

We have reached the half-way mark. Ute Radeklau from Berlin is the 3,000th person to be examined in the Berlin Ultrahigh Field Facility at the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine in the context of the largest German health study NAKO. It took a good hour to take a thousand MRI images of her. NAKO has been underway since 2014 and will continue for another 27 years. By collecting data on the health and risk factors of some 200,000 participants across Germany the goal is to improve prevention, early diagnosis and therapy of widespread diseases like cancer, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and dementia.

The magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanner in Berlin is always running to capacity – five days a week, for almost the last three years. The machine records approximately 6,500 cross-sections of each participant for a full body scan, which is being taken from each of the 6,000 individuals from Berlin and environs. The MRI Study Center at the MDC is cooperating with the three Berlin NAKO Centers (Berlin North, Berlin Center and Berlin South).

Ute Radeklau, 3000th MRI study participant (left) and Prof. Thoralf Niendorf (right). Image: MDC

The MRI scanner produces highly resolved images using radio waves and a strong magnetic field, which means there is no exposure to harmful radiation. The full body scanner captures images of the head and brain, spinal cord, heart, chest, stomach and pelvis in several layers and its various tissues. The six NAKO-MRI Centers around the country use exactly the same 3.0 Tesla MRI scanners and thus deliver comparable images and data. The examinations conducted in the context of the study are not intended to replace clinical examinations. If “random results that require clarification” are identified during evaluation, they have to be followed up.

“MRI data are a valuable addition to health data”

From a scientific point of view, MRI data are a valuable addition to other health data collected by NAKO. “Later on, we will be able to see whether MRI results are linked to the occurrence of diseases; we cannot assess their health relevance at this point,” says Professor Tobias Pischon who heads the NAKO Study Center North at the MDC.

(Featured image) The NAKO MRT study team and Ute Radeklau (4th from left), 3000th MRI study participant at Campus Berlin-Buch. Prof. Thoralf Niendorf, Dr. Beate Endemann, Michael Rohloff, Ute Radeklau, Lisa Krenz and Dr. Andrea Hasselbach (from left to right). Image: MDC

Participation in NAKO is only open to randomly selected individuals who have received an invitation by mail. Professor Thoralf Niendorf, director of the Berlin Ultrahigh Field Facility and head of the imaging project at the NAKO-MRI Center Berlin at the MDC, is grateful for the willingness of those contacted to take part: “The project is running very smoothly and we are delighted that test subjects like Ms Radeklau have engaged with it. These 3,000 participants are making an extremely important contribution to health research in Berlin, Brandenburg and Germany.”

The NAKO Health Study

The aim of the NAKO Health Study is to improve the prevention, early diagnosis and therapy of widespread diseases such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes and dementia. Across the country, 200,000 people aged between 20 and 69 are being examined and asked about their lifestyle habits. Biological samples are also being taken and stored anonymously under a code number. The participants will be observed for a period of 20 to 30 years in order to identify risk factors.

Participation in the study

Only those who receive a letter of invitation from one of the 18 NAKO Study Centres may take part in the study. Selection of the addressees is random from local resident registers. Participation in the study is voluntary. The tests may only be carried out with the consent of the study participants, who may rescind their participation at any time.


Further information