Taking part in medical research

There are many ways to take part in and support medical research. You can:

  • give permission for your health information to be used in a study
  • donate your body, some tissue or your brain
  • take part in a population-based study
  • join a clinical trial if you are undergoing treatment.

You can also consider donating to the Medical Research Foundation to support more research for human health.

People in Research can help you to find opportunities to take part in research.

You can also search for studies in your local area on the National Institute for Health Research ‘Be part of research’ page.

Giving permission for your health information to be used in a study

Health information can help to provide vital insights into the causes of disease, the effectiveness and long-term effects of treatments, and show ways to improve health through better provision of healthcare services.

If you take part in a research study, you will be asked to give consent to the use of your health information.

Donating your body or tissue to medical research

Tissue that is donated for research is used to develop and test new treatments or to learn more about the differences between healthy and diseased tissue.

The Human Tissue Authority gives advice on how to donate your body and tissue for use in medical research.

If you live in Scotland, see guidance from the Scottish government on how to donate your body.

Donating your brain to medical research

Brain tissue that has been donated for research is used to increase our understanding of human neurological disease and to develop new treatments. The MRC leads the UK Brain Bank Network, a coordinated national network of UK brain tissue resources for researchers.

The UK Brain Banks Network can provide you with further information, including how to contact your nearest bank to register to donate your brain and spinal tissue or that of a relative or partner.

The Human Tissue Authority also provides advice on how to donate your brain for use in medical research.

Participating in a clinical trial

A clinical trial is a study that is used to test a new medicine, medical device or treatment in people to check that it is safe and works well. If you are interested in participating in a clinical trial, the best thing to do is to ask your doctor or the health professional who you see most often.

If you have heard of a MRC-funded trial that you would like to get involved in or would like more information on, please contact the research unit or research university directly. Further details of MRC studies including the researcher can be found on Gateway to Research.

The MRC Clinical Trials Unit offers more information on taking part in clinical trials.

The ISRCTN registry lists current and past trials worldwide, and you can search for trials by name, area or health condition.

Participating in a population-based study

If you join a population study you will become part of a ‘cohort’ of people who answer surveys or take part in interviews over the course of the study. These studies provide a rich source of data that can be used for studying health and wellbeing throughout life.

There are many types of cohort studies, including birth cohorts, representative population studies, and studies focusing on specific disease areas. Recruitment to these studies can be done in a variety of ways, depending on the location of the research.

We have created a directory of the UK’s largest population cohorts to help researchers and policymakers to find and use them more easily.

Last updated: 24 May 2024

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