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Why volunteering plays a vital role in Norwich’s world-leading food and health research

PUBLISHED: 08:30 30 June 2020

Volunteering is a way of making a small contribution to help advance scientific knowledge  Picture: Quadram Institute

Volunteering is a way of making a small contribution to help advance scientific knowledge Picture: Quadram Institute

Archant

The COVID-19 outbreak has seen people work together for the common good in many different scenarios. But for Norwich Research Park, this selflessness has been evident for many years in the thousands of volunteers who give their time to help advance scientific knowledge.

Andrew Stronach, Head of External Relations and Engagement at the Quadram Institute   Picture: Quadram InstituteAndrew Stronach, Head of External Relations and Engagement at the Quadram Institute Picture: Quadram Institute

What has shone out during the coronavirus pandemic, as it often does in times of crisis, is that the selfless aspects of human nature come to the fore. And, it’s that willingness to participate which is so valuable in developing new treatments and medicines.

Norwich Research Park is home to a number of world-leading institutes who are at the forefront of global science, working together to come up with solutions to some of the major challenges facing the world in food, health and climate change. For much of this research, volunteers from the general public are needed to take part.

“Having volunteers taking part in studies enables scientists to carry out their research in a real-world environment which accelerates their learning and the path to remedies, treatments, vaccines and better dietary health,” said Andrew Stronach, pictured left, head of external relations and engagement at the Quadram Institute. “I am a great believer in grabbing opportunities in life to help ‘pay it forward’. A great way to do that is by getting involved in the world-leading research taking place here in Norwich.

“I myself have been a volunteer in a number of health studies, and it’s a privilege to make my own small contribution to help advance scientific knowledge.”

The Quadram Institute runs a number of studies which rely on volunteers to gain the real-world information needed to accelerate learning   Picture: Rob DaviesThe Quadram Institute runs a number of studies which rely on volunteers to gain the real-world information needed to accelerate learning Picture: Rob Davies

There are a number of studies currently being run at the Quadram Institute that require volunteers:

The CoPS study

Rob Davies has volunteered for a research project at the Quadram Institute which involved drinking blueberry milkshakesRob Davies has volunteered for a research project at the Quadram Institute which involved drinking blueberry milkshakes

COVID-19 is caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus and researchers want to know how it behaves. Preliminary studies have reported that over 60pc of people who test positive for COVID-19 show gastrointestinal symptoms, such as diarrhoea, nausea and vomiting.

This study will investigate how often we find SARS-CoV-2 virus in stool samples of people who have COVID-19 and how long the virus can be detected once COVID-19 symptoms disappear.

Researchers are looking for volunteers who are over 18, live within a 40-mile radius of Norwich and have tested positive for COVID-19.

The PEARL study

The PEARL Study (Pregnancy & Early Life) aims to understand how the transmission of beneficial microbes from mother to baby affects health. We all have trillions of bacteria in our gut, called the microbiota, which play a critical role in protecting our health, right from the earliest moments of life.

Early life, including pregnancy and shortly after birth, are when microbes colonise the gut, so this is a key stage to investigate.

Researchers are looking for volunteers who are pregnant mothers that are less than 22 weeks pregnant.

The MOTION study

This study is investigating gut microbes and the role they may play in healthy ageing, declining mental health and the risk of developing dementia, as well as their role in helping to digest food and fight off infections. Changes in gut microbe populations have been linked to other conditions including obesity, cancer, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.

People aged over 60 and in generally good health are invited to participate.

The REST study

Fibre has a protective role in reducing the risk of many common diseases such as type II diabetes and obesity, however, 91pc of UK adults do not meet the recommended fibre intake of 30g per day.

A new type of wheat white flour has been created that appears similar to conventional white bread flour but has a higher resistant starch (fibre) content. The study will compare people’s blood sugar after they’ve eaten bread made from the new flour with that of conventional white bread.

The study is looking to recruit volunteers who are aged 18-65, healthy and living within 40 miles of Norwich Research Park.

Anyone wishing to volunteer in these studies can find out more here.

Case study

Rob Davies, a marketing consultant from Norwich, tells us about his experience volunteering for a research project at the Quadram Institute:

“I was invited to take part in phase 1 of a project to find out what benefits eating blueberries have on the health of your heart. I had to follow a specific diet for a week, keep a food diary and take urine samples before and after drinking a blueberry milkshake.

“It was pretty straightforward and no real hardship. Although my results meant I didn’t go forward to phase 2 of the project, I was pleased to be able to help the researchers with their study.

“I have also volunteered for a project looking at the relationship between heading a football with the onset of dementia.

“I feel that by volunteering for these projects, I am making my own small contribution to research work that could deliver real benefits to people in the future.”


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