The golden girl of British athletics has joined a marathon Scotland-wide initiative to boost medical research.
Eilish McColgan, the Commonwealth 10,000 metres champion, has become the 300,000th volunteer to join the Scottish Health Research Register and Biobank (SHARE), which gives people the opportunity to take part in medical research to develop vital new treatments for diseases such as cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s and asthma.
By joining the register, the 32-year-old, is the latest volunteer to also allow blood left from routine clinical tests to be utilised for research purposes, allowing scientists to both develop new medicines and improve their safety and effectiveness.
Despite hitting this landmark figure, researchers insist that they are nowhere near the finishing line and have set their sights on recruiting one million volunteers to create an even more powerful resource for medical research.
“As an athlete, I know the difference that seconds can make,” said Eilish, who smashed the British record enroute to winning April’s Berlin half-marathon.
“It is incredible to think that in less than 60 seconds a person can sign up to SHARE and help doctors to discover new treatments for conditions like diabetes, cancer and dementia.
“Anyone aged 11 years or older can sign up, and I particularly hope that more young people want to get involved in this incredible project.
“It takes just a few seconds to register, requires minimal commitment, and could help transform outcomes for some of our most challenging health conditions.”
Eilish is the latest high-profile recruit to the pioneering project, following former Scotland football manager Craig Levein, television presenter Lorraine Kelly, and actress Joanna Vanderham.
SHARE is already one of the largest registers of research volunteers in the UK. Participants have agreed to be informed about health research projects that they may be interested in taking part in. Last year, over 40,000 people in Scotland took part in clinical research projects*, and the register is one of the ways interested participants can be informed about suitable opportunities.
There is no obligation to take part in any specific study and it is up to the individual if they wish to participate. Anyone aged 11 or over can sign up.
“SHARE is definitely a marathon and not a sprint,” said Colin Palmer, Professor of Pharmacogenomics at the University of Dundee’s School of Medicine. “However, this programme has the potential to transform healthcare outcomes across Scotland for years to come.
“It is a joy to welcome Eilish as our 300,000th recruit. As an inspirational athlete who appreciates the benefits of keeping in good health, she is a fantastic ambassador for SHARE.”
Professor Iain McInnes, Vice Principal and Head of College, University of Glasgow, added, “Scotland has a proud history of pioneering medical discoveries.
“This remarkable registry provides a foundation for even more exciting advances in the coming years, built on the generosity of the Scottish people.”
Many who register for SHARE also give their permission to allow use of their left-over blood following routine clinical testing to be kept for research. This is the blood that is commonly used for tests called for by GPs and other clinicians and would otherwise be dispensed with. The use of ‘spare’ blood in this way is a world first.
The project is part of NHS Research Scotland, funded by the Scottish Government’s Chief Scientist Office and supported by Scottish Health Boards and Universities. The project is sponsored by the University of Dundee.
Professor Brian McKinstry, of the Centre for Population Health Sciences at the University of Edinburgh, added, “SHARE is a simple way for people to get involved and support research which is making a real difference to people’s lives. All people need to do is register online.
“There is no need for a special sample of blood to be taken and they do not need to make a visit to their doctor. All the samples which we are given access to will be anonymised using a barcode system.”
Anybody wishing to register for SHARE can do so online at www.registerforshare.org or by scanning the QR codes on postcards found at doctor’s surgeries and hospitals throughout Scotland.