Birth cohort facility to study impact of environmental and genetic factors

7 August 2008

A new birth cohort research facility is to be launched as a resource for the study of the effects of economic, social and biological factors on human behaviour. A collaborative venture between the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and Medical Research Council (MRC), the £28.5 million facility is to be funded from the UK Department of Innovation, Universities and Skills (DIUS) science portfolio.

Birth cohorts are groups of people born within a defined period (such as a given year), often followed prospectively and monitored for outcomes of interest to researchers – for example, their medical history. The new facility will co-ordinate data from different existing birth cohort studies and make it easier for researchers to compare findings and identify patterns across different groups, to inform study of the effects of various factors on public health and social outcomes. A new cohort of children born in 2012 will also be created and tracked to look at the interplay of genetic and environmental factors (including prenatal influences) on development.

MRC Chief Executive Sir Leszek Borysiewicz commented: "Birth cohort studies are a vital tool for increasing our understanding of how our environment and development before and after we are born influence our health and predisposition to diseases in later life" (see press release).

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