News Release 

Is modern urban life making us unhealthy?

New grant will help Bristol scientists find out

University of Bristol

LongITools is a collaborative project led by the University of Oulu in Finland, which has been awarded funding from the EU's Horizon 2020 research and development programme. The University of Bristol will use its €810,000 allocation to work with the city's Children of the 90s health study to examine the effect of a lifetime's environmental exposures such as air pollution, noise pollution and neighbourhoods on our health.

Researchers will use data about the environment which can be collected using "geocoding" - a process where important information about environmental exposures can be aligned to the study to enable the analysis of important health and wellbeing related questions.

Health outcomes will be investigated using data collected from blood samples, imaging and cardiovascular assessments from three generations of Children of the 90s participants to map and model how environmental factors might influence growth, body composition and diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and stroke. As part of the LongITools project, this data will be combined with data from other studies across Europe to both help this work and to leave a legacy for other researchers in the future.

They will also identify molecular signs of environmental exposures and the role of lifestyle factors such as diet and exercise. This ambitious project includes partners from 15 research institutions and three small and medium-sized enterprises across eight European countries with expertise in epidemiology, genetics, epigenetics, metabolomics, lifestyle, mathematics, economics, policy making and sensor technology.

Scientists hope to develop tools to predict the risk of disease depending on environmental exposures at any point across life.

Ahmed Elhakeem, Senior Research Associate in Epidemiology, who led the grant bid for the University of Bristol, said: "We're very lucky in Bristol to have such a rich source of health, societal and environment information about our Children of the 90s participants. This means that we can look at everything they have been exposed to from before they were born to adulthood and old age and use lots of different methods to calculate the risk of circulatory, cardiac and metabolic diseases.

"I hope that with better knowledge about how where we live affects our health, the LongITools project can influence environmental and health policies across the world."

Professor Sylvain Sebert, LongITools project coordinator, added: "The economic and societal burden of non-communicable diseases rise steeply with age and have a huge bearing on healthcare costs. It also coincides with the alteration of the environment. We are therefore delighted that funding has been awarded and are excited at the prospect of developing research and delivering results that will not only identify preventive measures but will also play a role in addressing social health inequalities."

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The project is also one of nine projects in the newly created 'European Human Exposome Network' and the launch of this network will take place in Brussels today [Tuesday 11 February]. To keep-up-to-date with the project's progress please follow @longitools on Twitter.

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