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MPs donate DNA to help crack the genetic code of eating disorders

MPs Brooks Newmark, Caroline Nokes and Dominic Raab have donated their DNA to the Charlotte’s Helix project, through the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) BioResource for Mental and Neurological Health at King's College London Institute of Psychiatry (IoP) and South London and Maudsley (SLaM) NHS Foundation Trust.  

The aim of Charlotte’s Helix is to add at least 1,000 UK DNA samples to the global AN25K initiative – an ambitious study collecting 25,000 DNA samples in order to "crack the code" that makes some people predisposed to an eating disorder.

Brooks Newmark, newly appointed Minister for Civil Society and Conservative MP for Braintree, bravely revealed last year that he had an eating disorder at the age of 17.  Caroline Nokes, Conservative MP for Romsey and Southampton North and Dominic Raab, Conservative MP for Esher & Walton, also both donated DNA in support of the campaign.

The NIHR BioResource collects biological samples such as blood and saliva for molecular analysis which will be linked to electronic medical records of service users who have given permission to be contacted for participation in research.  

The NIHR BioResource collects and analyses samples and data allowing researchers to link and integrate information from different sources and look for variations in the molecular profiles of individuals with mental illness compared to healthy individuals.

It aims to collect samples from 50,000 patients over the next five years establish an internationally leading BioResource for mental health and clinical neuroscience as part of a national NIHR BioResource across the UK.


Members of the BioResource team, Brooks Newmark MP and Dr Gerome Breen

Dr Gerome Breen, BioResource lead at IoP and SLaM said: "Identifying variations in DNA that are associated with risk for anorexia would be useful in many ways, including: helping to develop new diagnostic tests; allowing clinicians to measure how patients respond to particular treatments and thereby tailor treatments to meet individual patient needs;  identifying molecular targets around which to design new drug treatments; and understanding the causes of different types of mental illnesses.  

"We are pleased to be partnering with Charlotte’s Helix on this important project and hope that AN25K leads to discoveries that will improve the quality of life for those with eating disorders and their families."

If you would like to volunteer for the NIHR BioResource you can find out more on the NIHR BioResource Volunteers page.  The NIHR BioResource for Mental and Neurological Health is one of the core facilities of theNIHR Biomedical Research Centre/Dementia Unit at King's IoP and SLaM. 

The NIHR BioResource team can be contacted 9:00am to 5:00pm Monday to Friday: 020 7848 5381; FREEPHONE: 0800 995 1999 Email:

For further information, please contact Louise Pratt, PR & Communications Manager, Institute of Psychiatry, King's College London or (+44) 0207 848 5378