ALEC Study (2015-ongoing):
Ageing Lungs in European Cohorts

This study will improve our understanding of risk factors for low lung function, respiratory disability and the development of chronic obstructive lung disease (COPD), by using information held within existing cohort studies. Even though COPD has long been viewed as a predominantly smoking-related disease, there is increasing awareness that lifestyle and environment contribute to disease even from very early in life, including before birth.
COPD is a major cause of disease, disability and death in European adults and lung function is a critical objective marker of good lung health, strongly associated with other major chronic diseases (for example, cardiovascular disease) and is a major independent determinant of overall health status.

Specific aims:

  1. To identify determinants and risk factors (behavioural, environmental, occupational, nutritional, other modifiable lifestyle, genetic) of poor lung growth, excess lung function decline and occurrence of low lung function, respiratory disability and COPD within existing child and adult cohorts.
  2. To generate new data to fill gaps in knowledge on pre-conception and transgenerational determinants and risk factors.
  3. To generate information on change in DNA methylation patterns to identify epigenetic changes associated with both disease development and exposure to disease risk factors.
  4. To validate the role of risk factors and improve causal inference by a) integrating data from relevant disciplines (clinical, epidemiological, molecular, genetics, epigenetics) b) integrating data from the cohort-related population-based biobanks and c) exploitation of appropriate statistical techniques.
  5. To generate a predictive risk score for individual risk stratification of COPD that takes account of the combined effects of factors that cause poor lung growth, low maximally attained lung function and lung function decline.
  6. To implement an online interactive tool for personalised risk prediction based on the risk score developed, and disseminate it freely and widely to the population, patients and health care providers, including development of an interactive web-based tool for individual risk stratification.
  7. To identify knowledge gaps to generate recommendations on COPD research priorities, including assessment of the necessity to establish new cohorts.

Work packages:
Work Package 1 - Management
Work Package 2 - Preconception and transgenerational risk factors
Work Package 3 - Lung function growth and submaximal lung function attainment in children
Work Package 4 - Lung function decline
Work Package 5 - Change in DNA methylation and lung function
Work Package 6 - Integration and translation
Work Package 7 - Dissemination

Participating cohorts:
ALSPAC – Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children
NFBC – Northern Finland Birth Cohort
ECRHS – European Community Respiratory Health Study
RHINESSA – Respiratory health in Northern Europe, Spain and Australia
GA2LEN – Global Allergy and Asthma European Network
Sapaldia – Swiss Study on Air Pollution and Lung Disease in Adults
GEIRD – Gene Environment Interactions in Respiratory Diseases
TAHS – Tasmanian Longitudinal Health Study

Principal Investigators and Partners:
Professor Debbie Jarvis, Imperial College (London, UK)
Professor John Henderson, University of Bristol (UK)
Dr Judith Garcia-Aymerich, CREAL (Barcelona, Spain)
Professor Cecilie Svanes, University of Bergen (Norway)
Professor John Holloway, University of Southampton (Southampton)
Professor Nicole Probst-Hensch, Swiss TPH (Basel, Switzerland)
Professor Roberto de Marco, University of Verona (Italy)
Professor Thorarinn Gislason, Landspitali University Hospital (Reykjavik, Iceland)
Dr Bénédicte Leynaert, INSERM (Paris, France)
Professor Dennis Nowak, Ludwig-Maximilians-University (Munich, Germany)
Professor Shyamali Dharmage, University of Melbourne (Australia)

Dr. Iana Markevych, Dr. Joachim Heinrich

The ALEC Study is funded by the European Union's Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation programme under grant agreement No. 633212.

Dr. Joachim Heinrich

Link to website:


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