A new milestone has been reached: at the end of March 2018, the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) welcomed its 4,000th participant, Johannes Brattke, in the nationwide German National Cohort (GNC) health study. By 2019, the study will examine a total of 200,000 people between the ages of 20 and 69, who will then receive follow-up examinations for 30 years. The anonymous data they provide will be analyzed to help identify the causes of widespread diseases such as cancer, diabetes, dementia and cardiovascular diseases, thus improving the early diagnosis and prevention of these chronic illnesses.
The MDC’s location at the Berlin-Buch campus is one of three GNC study centers in the German capital. By the time the study is over, 6,000 of the 30,000 participants from Berlin and the surrounding Brandenburg area will have come here to receive a 3 Tesla magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan. In an MRI scan, high-precision images are generated by radio waves and a strong magnetic field; it does not involve exposure to radiation. All five of the GNC’s MRI centers across Germany are using the same scanners, thus ensuring the comparability of the images and data generated.
“The commitment of test participants like Johannes Brattke is the foundation for this health study’s success,” says Professor Thoralf Niendorf, head of imaging at the GNC’s MRI center in Buch. “The combination of MRI scans and other data opens up new possibilities for health research.” The first results from the study will be published next year.
About the German National Cohort
For the study, a total of 20,000 participants aged between 20 and 69 will be examined and asked about their lifestyles. In addition to the examination, various biological samples will be taken and stored anonymously under a code number for use in research projects. The participants will receive follow-up examinations and questionnaires for a period of 20 to 30 years, in order to identify potential risk factors.
Participation in the study
Only those who receive an invitation letter from one of the 18 GNC study centers can participate in the study. A random sample of participants is generated from population registers. Participation in the study is voluntary. Examinations can only be carried out with the consent of the participant, who is also able to withdraw from the study at any time. In its first ten years, the study will receive €210 million in funding from the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), participating German states and the Helmholtz Association. The GNC was launched by the Helmholtz Association, participating universities, the Leibniz Association and government research agencies.