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A photography exhibition showcasing ground-breaking NHS research taking place across the Thames Valley has been launched in Oxford.

‘The Body Unlocked: How Research is Changing Lives’ features life-sized photographs of people who have taken part in studies, researchers at work and microscopic images of cells and bacteria.

Images include surgeons preparing a pioneering gene therapy injection for vision loss, dogs smelling urine to detect cancer, a close-up of cells responsible for controlling blood sugar and a virtual reality headset to treat mental illnesses (see notes to editors for copies of the photos and captions).

The exhibition can be seen for the next two months at Oxford’s Covered Market (to 15 April), in the windows of a unit in the centre of the market, opposite Wicked Chocolate.

Among those featured in the exhibition are dementia study participants Barry and Enid Reeves, of Abingdon, who have been married for 70 years. 

The couple, both 91, volunteered for the study at Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust after Enid was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2016.

They were interviewed at home by researchers to find out what helps them with the condition and what stops them from living a normal life. It is hoped this will help improve NHS care.

Barry said: “We’ve become closer as a consequence of her diagnosis because I have become her carer now. The study is not for our benefit particularly, we took part to help others.”

In 2018/19, there were 1,930 studies involving 39,129 participants at Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, which manages the John Radcliffe Hospital, Churchill Hospital and Nuffield Orthopaedic Centre in Oxford and Banbury’s Horton General Hospital.

Professor Keith Channon, Director of Research and Development at the trust, said: “Oxford is one of the UK’s leading centres for healthcare research, often leading the world in specialties as diverse as neuroscience, cancer, cardiology, diabetes or surgery and delivering improvements in diagnosis and treatment for NHS patients.

“That research, and the ability to push forward our knowledge of different health conditions, is critically dependent on the participation of many thousands of patients and members of the public from across the region.

“We hope that this exhibition, which showcases examples of the ground-breaking research that takes place here, highlights the contributions of patients and members of the public and encourages them to get involved in research studies that can lead to new and improved treatments in the NHS.”

A further 161 research studies involving 2,981 participants took place at Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust, which provides physical, mental health and social care in Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Wiltshire, Bath and North East Somerset. 

Prof John Geddes, Director of Research and Development at the trust, said: “While we have some reasonably effective treatments for some mental disorders, we have very little for others, including dementia. Much more research is needed to discover new therapies that are precisely targeted at illness mechanisms. 

“The best way to do this is by developing a vibrant partnership between patients, clinicians and scientists, creating new knowledge that gets people better quicker and helps them to avoid illness in the first place. That’s exactly what we are doing in Oxford and the exhibition illustrates this.”

After the Covered Market, the exhibition will travel around the Thames Valley to be displayed at other venues, such as museums, libraries and town halls, where it can be seen by as many people as possible. 

Research studies are an integral part of improving treatments in the NHS, public health and social care for conditions such as cancer, diabetes and psychosis. 

Patients are encouraged to ask their doctor or nurse about research or look for studies they could take part in at bepartofresearch.uk. Healthy volunteers are also needed so they can be compared to those with a condition. 

The studies highlighted in the exhibition are taking place in Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Milton Keynes and Oxfordshire with support from the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR).

To find out more visit thebodyunlocked.info.