Football manager Craig Levein has become the 250,000th volunteer to join a Scotland-wide effort to help shape the medicines of the future.
Mr Levein, manager of Heart of Midlothian and former boss of the Scotland national team, signed up for SHARE (The Scottish Health Research Register) ahead of the Edinburgh derby match with Hibernian on April 6.
He was immediately followed by Paul Heckingbottom, his opposite number at rivals Hibernian.
SHARE is a unique initiative which aims to make it easier for researchers to identify suitable recruits from Scotland to carry out ground breaking medical research. SHARE also uses blood left over from routine testing to help improve treatments for diseases such as Cancer, Diabetes, Alzheimer’s and Asthma.
Mr Levein said, “I am delighted to be part of this pioneering health initiative. It is important that everyone gets an opportunity to help medical research and support the great efforts that are being made to find new treatments for patients.
“I had a health scare of my own last year and am tremendously grateful for the care I received, and the work that researchers are doing to improve the lives of patients. Anything that can help those efforts is something I am willing to support, and this is an easy and straightforward way of providing help.
“It only takes a minute to sign up and I would encourage everyone to join me in doing this."
Mr Heckingbottom added, “Getting agreement from the bosses at Hibernian and Hearts, particularly around the time of a derby game, may be difficult on many issues but I think we are agreed this is a great idea which can help medical research.
“I am delighted to add my name to this and would encourage our fans to give SHARE their support.”
SHARE is pioneering an easy way for people to help the fight against disease. It only takes one minute to sign up to SHARE but the benefits may be felt for generations to come, say researchers.
Colin Palmer, Professor of Pharmacogenomics at the University of Dundee, is leading on SHARE’s spare blood appeal. He said, “Tens of thousands of people have signed up across Scotland over the past 15 years to genetic studies which have resulted directly in major discoveries of genetic variants for Eczema, Asthma, Diabetes and heart disease amongst others.
“However, to really maximise the benefits of this research and help transform the personalisation of healthcare, we need to study really large samples so it is vital we find new and simple ways for people to help. SHARE is allowing us to do that and to have a quarter of a million people now signed up is hugely encouraging.”
Professor Brian McKinistry, of the Centre for Population Health Sciences at the University of Edinburgh, said, “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 to get involved is register online or complete a simple leaflet registration that can be found at doctor’s surgeries and hospitals throughout Scotland. 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 made anonymous using a barcode system.”
SHARE is one of the largest registers of research volunteers in the UK. Those on the register have agreed to be informed about health research projects that they may be interested in taking part in. There is no obligation to take part in any specific study and it is up to the individual to choose whether or not to take part in any of these studies.
Many who register 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.
To date, 50,000 plus people have been contacted for research and 85,000 blood samples have been collected through SHARE.
People can sign up at www.registerforshare.org or complete FREEPOST brochures that are widely distributed throughout Scotland including clinics, GP surgeries and pharmacies.
SHARE is a partnership between the NHS in Scotland, the Scottish Government and universities in Scotland. It is supported by funding from the Chief Scientist’s Office, and based at the University of Dundee with Professor Palmer as Chief Investigator.