Study Hopes to Track People from Birth to Death

Study Hopes to Track People from Birth to Death

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Ed Yeates ReportingThe largest and longest study that's ever been undertaken officially begins next year. That's when Utah researchers begin enrolling volunteers for a National Children's Study that could follow families all the way from birth until death.

Principal investigator Edward Clark, M.D., with the University of Utah, says, "This is the boldest, the most comprehensive, the most complete study of children's health ever launched."

With a partnership between the University of Utah, Utah State and Primary Children's Hospital, Salt Lake County and the Cache Valley will become two among 105 national sites for this monumental investigation. In all, the National Children's Study will register 100,000 kids. And as they grow through the years, researchers hope to hold on to at least 90,000.

Dr. Richard Roberts, co-investigator, with Utah State University, said, "It's about as thorough a study as you could imagine, and it's one that's very much overdue in our country."

The long-term commitment for families and researchers is staggering. Researchers hope to begin before conception, through pregnancy, at birth, as the infant grows into a child, to a teen, and to age 21. With additional grants, the study even could continue through the middle and older years, right up to death.

In other words, through the entire circle of life, scientists follow volunteers, looking at lifestyle, where they live, where they move, what they breathe, what they eat, their genetic backdrop and more.

Project director Sean Firth said, "That the same person is coming to their home, and so this person may actually become a member of the family, at least an adopted member."

As team members age, they'll pass the baton to younger colleagues who will continue the study without losing a beat.

Dr. Clark says, "This comprehensive analysis of children's health, the environment and genetics will fundamentally change the way we think about how we raise a child."

And for the first time, researchers might find the elusive triggers for autism, attention deficit, asthma, diabetes, muscular disorders, and the list goes on!

Research teams will seek permission waivers at several stages of the study and get formal consent from participants when they reach age 18. A family may drop out of the study at any time.

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