ALSPAC is a multi-generational study that began as a pregnancy/birth cohort. In 1991 and 1992, 14,500 pregnant women living in and around Bristol were recruited into the study. Detailed data have been collected on these women and their partners (the original parents, known as G0) and their children (the index participants, G1). In recent years the study has also enrolled the children of the children (G2).
The overarching objective for ALSPAC is to maintain its position as the premier multi-generational birth cohort offering unrivalled access to existing data and samples whilst providing new data and resources for science focused on the health and characteristics of families, young adults and mother & child as they go into and out of pregnancy. A study of this type (i.e. the richest version of a life course prospective study) is critical to the investigation of early life health and the precursors of adult disease.
The multi-genenerational, prospective and engaged participant base makes ALSPAC an important resource in the UKRI portfolio. ALSPAC has a uniquely rich longitudinal resource containing phenotypic, environmental, genetic and administrative linkage data from different cohort groups. The study is described in general terms here: Fraser et al IJE 2013/Boyd et al IJE 2013 and has comprehensive details and public documentation here: www.bris.ac.uk/alspac. Biological samples are available from all cohort groups and have been used to generate a variety of omics data. This includes genomewide common genetic variation on over 20000 participants, whole methylome assessment (multiple time points), NMR derived metabolomics (multiple time points), expression analysis, whole exome sequencing on 3000 participants and whole genome sequencing in 2000 participants (UK10K). Biological samples of an extremely broad variety are available to researchers through managed access and the study is exceptionally well placed for the collection of new data. This can be through nested studies of physiological function, intervention studies, whole cohort data sweeps or biological data collection, remote data collection approaches, questionnaires, qualitative research approaches or new clinic/face to face assessment with participants.
The ALSPAC resource is extremely well used by researchers. Between 2014 and early 2019, 943 research papers used the ALSPAC resource (of >2000 papers in total that have used the study. The study handles on average 18 requests for data and samples per month and the >800 logged users have been prolific in their output. In early 2019, the study carried an H-index of 126 and it is still continuing to support considerable new investment (through core and additional activity) as a platform for international research. In addition to the research benefits of a longitudinal birth cohort that has been running for 30 years – and hence has captured a full generation from birth to the arrival of their own offspring, ALSPAC is able to focus on: early life causes of variation in function and timing of peak health and of disease precursors. The original study children (G1) have detailed, repeatedly assessed measurements of social, environmental, anthropometric, cognitive, mental health, cardiometabolic, musculoskeletal and respiratory health from infancy/early childhood through to 24 years – and are record linked. There is a huge opportunity to continue this detailed assessment of G1 participants (via new material and through the expanded biosample programme) through a period of apparent health and into a period where the common diseases of age are clinically diagnosed. ALSPAC is able to focus on: the field of cross generational research through the analysis of extensive existing data on 3 generations (G0/G1/G2) and through new data collected in this proposal. ALSPAC is unique in having genetic and repeat social, environmental, lifestyle, clinical, epigenetic, metabolomic, endocrine and inflammatory system data measured across three generations - essential for determining the interplay of exposures and outcomes across the life course.
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