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The German National Cohort

The German National Cohort (GNC), presented as a prospective epidemiologic study resource for health and disease research in Germany, is an interdisciplinary, multicenter, population-based cohort study currently undertaken by a network of over 25 institutions in Germany. The primary goal is to develop new strategies for risk assessment, early detection and prevention of multifactor diseases, which will burden the aging German population, with core focus on cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular, neurodegenerative, respiratory and infectious diseases.

GNC spans 18 study centers across Germany and will examine and follow-up about 200,000 subjects of the general population between the ages of 20-69 years with various examinations for a period of at least 25 years. Information on their habits, environment, as well as risk factors and social status are recorded, after which they undergo a set of clinical examinations, which include physical exams and the collection of biological samples such as blood, urine, saliva, nasal swabs and stool. Selected subgroups are invited for more in-depth medical examinations. A group of 30,000 subjects will undergo whole-body magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). A full scale reassessment for all subjects is planned, five years after the initial tests.

In order to achieve this, leading German research institutes and universities are working together under the banner of the non-profit organization “Nationale Kohorte e.V.” (NAKO.de). The educational, scientific and epidemiological value of this prospective cohort study earned sponsorship from the German Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) and the Helmholtz Association.

Our participation in the German National Cohort study is multi-dimensionally linked to the whole-body MRI exams. First, we provide the radiological expertise and support for the MRI site in Heidelberg-Mannheim, one of five nation-wide MRI sites. Radiologists from the DIR oversee local imaging acquisition and are responsible for imaging interpretation. Second, the project team from DIR serves as the Incidental Finding (IF) Center for MRI in the National Cohort study. The Project Team is tasked with developing novel IF reading tools, defining reporting algorithms and standard-operation-procedures as well as training study radiologists to guarantee the highest level of quality and ethical standards in IF detection and reporting at all MRI sites.

Research Team