Britain debates whether to create DNA registry of newborn babies

August 07, 2017

The White Paper Our Inheritance Our Future - Realising the potential of genetics in the NHS (June 2003) - sets out the Government's commitment to developing genetics knowledge, skills and provision within the NHS.

In a foreword to the paper Tony Blair says: "The more we understand about the human genome, the greater will be the impact on our lives and on our health care. 

"As an increasing number of diseases are linked to particular genes or gene sequences, we will be able to target and tailor treatment better to offset their impact and even to avoid the onset of ill-health many years in advance."

ALSPAC's new Population Genetics Laboratories which opened in November 2003 are designed to provide an unlimited supply of DNA from the study children and their mothers.  No other study in the world has such a large DNA collection from a carefully studied normal population - or such a sophisticated system for growing "immortalised" human cell lines from blood samples.      

Thirty years ago it was discovered  that if white blood cells or lymphocytes  were separated from a blood sample and then infected with a virus in the laboratory, the infected cells would grow indefinitely. Because these cells do not die, they are described as immortalised - and they provide ALSPAC researchers with a never-ending supply of DNA to be analysed and then compared with our database. The DNA from the cohort is not tied to names, but to data about individuals.

ALSPAC The Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (also known as Children of the 90s) is a unique ongoing research project based in the University of Bristol. It enrolled 14,000 mothers during pregnancy in 1991-2 and has followed the children and parents in minute detail ever since. 

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