Major international project to understand how events in pregnancy affect healthy ageing

Researchers are particularly interested in identifying what causes cardiovascular, respiratory and mental health problems. ©iStock

An international project has been launched to better understand how events during pregnancy and childhood influence the development of disease later in life, with the University of Western Australia and medical research organisation The Telethon Kids Institute leading the Australian effort.

The LifeCycle Project will bring together European, UK and Australian pregnancy and child researchers into a new network, the EU CHILD Cohort Network, providing them with an opportunity to compare cohorts from around the world.

The ambitious project combines data on over 250,000 children and their parents from Europe and Australia to provide robust scientific evidence on the early life stresses which may affect health trajectories throughout life.

Co-lead on the Telethon Kids Institute arm of the project Dr Rae-Chi Huang said the university was well positioned to contribute to the project.

“It has one of the most valuable birth population cohorts in the world known as The Raine Study with more than 2800 participants followed-up from birth to 26-years and now the opportunity to follow up their offspring,” Dr Huang said.

“By integrating these data sets with other cohorts from around the world, we expand our ability to identify the early life events which may affect health later on in life.”

New generations

Professor Graham Hall, also from the institute, said the research findings would be translated into new prevention and intervention policies focused on parents-to-be and young children, to improve health for new generations.

“We’re particularly interested in identifying what causes cardiovascular, respiratory and mental health problems, which have the highest burden of disease and we know they have roots in early life,” Professor Hall said.

“The most effective way of curtailing these diseases is by identifying the conditions which cause them as early as possible, and applying solutions at a stage before they cause life threatening conditions.”

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