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Three generations take part in decades-spanning asthma and allergy research

Families on the Isle of Wight have been taking part in a ground-breaking research project for over 34 years.

Researchers in Southampton have been monitoring the health of over a thousand people on the Isle of Wight from when they were born.

Studying this large group, known as a cohort, over many years is revealing new insights into allergies and asthma. This is building understanding of the conditions and helping identify new or improved treatments.

Many members of the cohort are now parents themselves, and have put their own children forward to be included in the cohort.

This means that three generations of the same families – parents of the birth cohort, their children and their grandchildren, have provided valuable data for research.

Parents, children and grandchildren

The Isle of Wight Birth Cohort was established in 1989. It is one of the oldest and most comprehensively studied birth cohorts.

There are now over 600 children in this ‘third-generation’ group, who are being assessed at six years of age as part of an ongoing project.

Southampton researchers are investigating the prevalence, environmental risk factors, genetic susceptibility and progression of the conditions. They are led by Prof Hasan Arshad from the University of Southampton and NIHR Southampton Biomedical Research Centre (BRC).

The cohort has informed over 100 research publications, helping researchers better understand asthma, eczema and food allergies - especially how these conditions might change over someone’s lifetime.

Investigating allergies and asthma

Members of the cohort have taken part in seven follow-up studies to date, at ages one, two, four, 10, 18 and 26 years. Prof Arshad is now leading an eighth follow-up study.

This will last between 18 months and two years. Members of the cohort will answer a comprehensive questionnaire before attending a health check at David Hide Asthma and Allergy Research Centre, St Mary’s Hospital on the Isle of Wight. There they will have tests to check their lung function, allergic sensitivity and nitric oxide levels, which indicate inflammation of the airways.

It is being funded by the David Hide Asthma and Allergy Charitable Trust, sponsored by the Isle of Wight NHS Trust, and supported by the NIHR Southampton BRC.

Prof Arshad, Professor in Allergy & Clinical Immunology at the University of Southampton and an honorary consultant with Isle of Wight NHS Trust, said:

“In many ways, the Isle of Wight birth cohort provides a unique wealth of information. Being able to study asthma and allergic diseases across three generations helps us to understand how genetics and environmental exposures influence health across generations.

“I would like to thank the families that have been so committed to this research over many years. Your contributions will help families for many generations to come.”

Image credit: BBC South News



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