Frequently Asked Questions
Many of our enquiries relate to ‘genetic testing’ and the ongoing study titled ‘Genetic and Cytogenetic Assessment of British nuclear test veterans and their families’. The following questions + answers represent those most frequently asked.
Who will be studied?
What does the study involve?
How are we selecting veterans?
We will be looking for genetic differences set against a lifetime of exposure to a global background of radiation from a variety of sources including radon gas in the environment, global fallout, medical & diagnostic exposures as well as other confounding effects.
Can I volunteer?
If I receive a letter and agree to participate will I definitely be recruited into the study?
Shall I contact my GP to ask to be included in the study?
Can I refuse to participate or withdraw at any time?
When will we know the results of the genetic study?
Firstly, all studies involving human participants are legally and ethically obliged to obtain UK regulatory permissions. For this study, many stages of approval were required. All stages progressed without issue, however in total this took 17 months to complete.
Secondly, upon approval, the process of inviting and recruiting families to participate could begin. This requires a significant effort from the study team and involves sending hundreds of ‘invitation packages’ to identified veteran couples via their GP. There are many steps involved in administering this process and in the subsequent screening and interviewing of eligible and consented individuals.
Thirdly, once informed consent has been obtained from all members of each family trio, blood packages can be sent. Families are requested to make appointments at their local GP to sample their blood and for this to be sent to Brunel University London.
Research staff then process this blood for cytogenetic analysis at Brunel University London and for whole genome sequence analysis at the University of Leicester. This process of analysis involves the detailed assessment of hundreds of cells from every individual in the study and also, computational analysis of large DNA sequence databases for each family. All of this analysis is currently underway and is being carried out in parallel with ongoing family recruitment.
Fourthly, once all of the cytogenetic and whole genome sequence analysis has been completed for all 50 test and 50 control family trios, we can then proceed to performing a number of statistical comparisons to evaluate if any differences are seen between test and control populations that show evidence, or not, for a genetic effect of participating at British nuclear test sites. Once this assessment of the data has been made, the results will be written and submitted for peer-review publication in scientific journals. It is only upon acceptance for publication that all of our findings can be made public.
We anticipate publication of findings mid-late 2020.