By NATALIE BULIK-SULLIVAN
Published: July 22, 2014
This past week has witnessed a major public awareness breakthrough for Charlotte’s Helix, the UK branch of AN25K (our international challenge to collect clinical information and DNA samples on 25,000 individuals who have had anorexia at any point in their life by 2016).
Charlotte’s Helix is named after Charlotte Bevan, a mother, advocate, and passionate believer in the power of science. The Helix came to be via the vision and collaboration of Charlotte, Laura Collins, and Cindy Bulik. The project seeks not only to collect DNA samples in the hope of isolating the genes that influence risk for eating disorders, but also, in the words of Charlotte herself to, “Bring eating disorders into the consciousness of my many friends, who exist in a world untouched by this mental health problem.”
On July 16th, eating disorders were indeed brought into the consciousness of everyone in the UK, when Charlotte’s Helix was among the issues raised during the Prime Minister’s Questions—a weekly parliamentary tradition during which the British Prime Minister responds to questions from Members of Parliament (MP).
Caroline Nokes, the MP for Romsey and Southampton North, requested that Prime Minister David Cameron, “commend the work of Charlotte’s Helix and all those who have been brave enough to speak out about their struggles with eating disorders.” Acknowledging that it is not easy to speak out about one’s struggles with eating disorders, Cameron obliged, adding that, “We need to learn more about these conditions so we can provide the right kind of support.”
This exchange came the day after two MPs donated blood to Charlotte’s Helix. MP Dominic Raab donated as a control sample, and Brooks Newmark, who last year acknowledged a history of eating disorders, donated as a former sufferer.
The participation of these three MPs garnered national attention for Charlotte’s Helix. The Independent, a national British newspaper, covered the MPs’ participation in an article that can be read here.
This is not only exciting news for Charlotte’s Helix and everyone associated with the AN25K Challenge, but also a reminder of the global impact of our genetic research. Eating disorders affect sufferers and families all over the world, and unprecedented international cooperation is necessary to find the causes and cures.
Along with Prime Minister David Cameron, we commend and applaud the bravery of all those who have spoken out about their experiences with eating disorders, provided blood samples to ANGI or Charlotte’s Helix, or otherwise supported our global efforts reach AN25K by 2016.