National Eating Disorders Association

Why Researchers Need Our Blood in Solving the Mystery of Anorexia

June Alexander

People like me who experience anorexia nervosa want to make our life count; we want to do something so that others do not suffer like us. And we can.

Already, hundreds of us have participated in exciting research, ANGI, the Anorexia Nervosa Genetics Initiative, by contributing a blood sample.

This is a great achievement, but to solve the difficult Anorexia mystery, we need many more blood samples - thousands more, actually – 25,000 in total. Research team leader Prof. Nick Martin, at the Queensland Institute of Medical Research (QIMR), Australia, explains why the researchers need our help:

Why does the research team want our blood?

  • Prof. Martin: We need the blood so we can extract DNA to genotype all the genes and try and find which ones predispose to anorexia. 

Who can give the blood? Like, do you need to be of a certain age, sex, do you need to be suffering from Anorexia Nervosa today or do you need to be recovered from Anorexia Nervosa?

  • Prof. Martin: You can be of any age, either sex, and have anorexia now, or in the past.

What happens after we provide a blood sample, like, where does it go?

  • Prof. Martin: The blood goes to QIMR in Brisbane for initial processing and then to Rutgers University in New Jersey where it will be genotyped. 

When can we expect some sort of outcome on this ANGI research project?

  • Prof. Martin: This is a four-year project and we hope to have found the principal genes by the end of it. To turn that knowledge into new cures will take years longer. Typically in medical research it is around 15 years between a basic discovery and a new drug on the market. This is largely because of the rigorous FDA (USA Food and Drug Administration) regulations for new drug approval. But new drugs aren’t the only possible outcome—results will help us understand the biology of the illness and may also help us with identifying individuals at greatest risk. 

Why this research is important?

  • Prof. Martin: The best way to new cures is to understand the basic biology and finding the genes in this way is a major step to achieving this.

How many samples do we need to get?

  • Prof. Martin: Internationally, ANGI is targeting 8000 cases and the global effort, AN25K, wants to collect at least 25,000!

To find out how you can make your experience with Anorexia count in finding a cure for Anorexia Nervosa: 
In the United States of America click here 

In the United Kingdom: click here
In Australia: click here

For further information, see also: Roll up your sleeve for science! I can hardly wait

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