Proposal summaries

These are research proposals that have been approved by the ALSPAC exec. The titles include a B number which identifies the proposal and the date on which the proposals received ALSPAC exec approval.

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B3730 - Exposure to green and blue spaces and working memory in children aged 5-12 - 04/03/2021

B number: 
B3730
Principal applicant name: 
Mikel Subiza Pérez | University of the Basque Country UPV/EHU (Spain)
Co-applicants: 
Dr. Aitana Lertxundi, Gonzalo García-Baquero
Title of project: 
Exposure to green and blue spaces and working memory in children aged 5-12
Proposal summary: 

Current scientific evidence suggests that exposure to green and blue spaces and infraestructures (e.g. parks, rivers, street trees...) may have an impact on human's health and that this effect might be partiallt explained by the sequestration of air pollutants. The general aim of the project is to analyze the association of various residential green and blue space metrics with working memory in children aged 5-12 years old in European birth cohorts.

Impact of research: 
We think our contribution will be relevant due to the large sample of participants available for the analyses and the use of a relatively novel variable in the greenness-cognition literature as most of the previous studies have focused on attention, IQ or academic performance. Besides, the inclusion of metrics of exposure to blue spaces will also mean a relevant step forward. In all, we will generate more evidence on environmental health that could inspire future policies and interventions.
Date proposal received: 
Thursday, 4 March, 2021
Date proposal approved: 
Thursday, 4 March, 2021
Keywords: 
Mental health - Psychology, Psychiatry, Cognition, Cognitive impairment, Statistical methods, Childhood - childcare, childhood adversity, Cognition - cognitive function, Environment - enviromental exposure, pollution

B3726 - DNA methylation score development for in utero exposure to paternal smoking - 01/03/2021

B number: 
B3726
Principal applicant name: 
Diana Ivankovic | Clemson University (USA)
Co-applicants: 
Cristy Stagnar
Title of project: 
DNA methylation score development for in utero exposure to paternal smoking
Proposal summary: 

The ability of environmental conditions to influence phenotypes in future generations requires that environmental exposures induce changes in the epigenome of male gametes via the transmission of aberrant sperm epigenetic marks following fertilization. Studies have demonstrated that exposure to cannabis and tobacco products alter sperm DNA methylation. Thus, it is important to investigate environmental exposures, including cigarettes and cannabis, and their effect on the male gametes during the crucial pre and periconception window. In addition, there is a need to determine whether these methylation marks are heritable and associated with health outcomes in the progeny, especially given that men are the predominant cannabis and tobacco product consumers, and their use is increasing. Our machine learning-based DNA methylation score is based on cord blood measurements of DNA methylation (Illumina’s Infinium HumanMethylation450K BeadChip) and will reflect exposure to paternal smoking pre and during pregnancy.

Impact of research: 
A machine learning-based DNA methylation score will be useful in studies of childhood health outcomes to fill in the inevitable missing data on whether or for how long a father smoked and to validate self-reports of nonsmoking. It will also enable its implementation in adjusting epigenome-wide DNA methylation association studies for this early-life exposure.
Date proposal received: 
Sunday, 28 February, 2021
Date proposal approved: 
Monday, 1 March, 2021
Keywords: 
Bioinformatics, Pregnancy - e.g. reproductive health, postnatal depression, birth outcomes, etc., Computer simulations/modelling/algorithms, Statistical methods

B3725 - Exercise and Mental Health in Children with Neurodevelopmental Conditions - 04/03/2021

B number: 
B3725
Principal applicant name: 
Umar Toseeb | University of York
Co-applicants: 
Title of project: 
Exercise and Mental Health in Children with Neurodevelopmental Conditions
Proposal summary: 
Impact of research: 
This unique project will help to elucidate the mechanisms via which exercise and mental health are related in children with neurodevelopmental conditions. Parents of children with neurodevelopmental conditions will be consulted during the initial stages of study development and during the dissemination of the findings. By understanding how exercise and mental health are related in children with neurodevelopmental conditions we hope to be in a position to inform the development of educational programmes and parenting strategies designed to optimise exercise in ways that are bespoke to specific challenges. Findings will be shared with policy makers and practitioners through targeted policy briefs, a workshop, and press releases news articles aimed at the general public.
Date proposal received: 
Friday, 26 February, 2021
Date proposal approved: 
Monday, 1 March, 2021
Keywords: 
Social Science, Developmental disorders - autism, Learning difficulty, Mental health, Speech/language problem, Statistical methods, Childhood - childcare, childhood adversity, Cognition - cognitive function, Communication (including non-verbal), Genomics, Physical - activity, fitness, function, Speech and language, Statistical methods

B3723 - Nature vs nurture of type 2 diabetes applying polygenic risk scores to dissect genetic from environmental effects on type 2 dia - 01/03/2021

B number: 
B3723
Principal applicant name: 
Despoina Manousaki | University of Montreal (Canada)
Co-applicants: 
Melanie Henderson, Nicholas J Timpson, Laura Corbin, Faegheh Ghanbari Divshali, Nahid Yazdan Panah
Title of project: 
Nature vs nurture of type 2 diabetes: applying polygenic risk scores to dissect genetic from environmental effects on type 2 dia
Proposal summary: 

Type 2 diabetes (T2D) is a heritable disease leading to an abnormal glucose metabolism, influenced by multiple genetic variants across the genome. Although common in adults, T2D was previously rare in childhood, but its prevalence in this age group has been increasing in the past two decades as a result of the childhood obesity pandemic, accounting for up to 45% of cases of diabetes in youth in certain at-risk populations. The prevalence of prediabetes (an early stage of T2D, which is characterized by elevated blood sugar below the threshold to diagnose T2D) is even higher among obese children. Furthermore, individuals who develop both prediabetes and T2D in childhood and adolescence develop early microvascular complications, whose treatment failure is high. Thus, prevention of young-onset T2D using targeted lifestyle modification presents a particularly important yet difficult challenge. As such, identifying children at increased risk early in their lives is critical for these targeted interventions. Additionally, quantifying the genetic liability to youth-onset T2D could help better understand the respective contributions of environment vs genetics in the etiology of this disease. For instance, it is crucial to understand if among children with increased genetic risk for T2D, a favorable environment can prevent the development of T2D.
T2D has a polygenic nature, with an important heritable component explaining between 20% and 80% of the risk to develop this disease. Polygenic risk scores (PRS) have been demonstrated to have an improving ability to identify adult individuals at significantly high/low predisposition towards polygenic diseases. Therefore, it has become possible to identify adults who will lie at the extreme distribution of a trait, such as risk of T2D. T2D is causally linked to obesity. Obesity, as expressed by the measures of body mass index (BMI), is also a highly heritable polygenic trait. A PRS for adult BMI (Khera et al, Cell 2019) has been able to predict differences in body weight in ALSPAC children as early as at birth, with increasing predictive performance as individuals grow older.
Therefore, we posit that, similar to the PRS for BMI, a PRS for adult T2D, in combination with clinical risk factors (such as nutrition and physical activity) may be able to effectively predict individuals presenting abnormal glycemic traits in childhood. Since T2D and prediabetes in both adults and children is causally linked to obesity, we will also test if a PRS for adult BMI predicts abnormal glycemic traits in children. We will then compare the predictive performance of the PRSes and combine them with traditional non-genetic risk factors to enhance T2D risk prediction in youth. Finally, among children at the extremities of the PRS distribution (ie children with the highest and lowest genetic risk for T2D), we will seek to identify which environmental factors mitigate the effects of this genetic risk, and either contribute or prevent the development of T2D. To do this, we will use a large pediatric cohort representing the general population (ALSPAC), as well as a population of children at risk of obesity (QUALITY), both of predominantly European ancestry.

Impact of research: 
Our study can potentially stratify for risk of T2D among children, based on PRS derivable at no risk and low cost. Such a stratification is likely to improve screening for candidates for targeted lifestyle interventions, while optimizing allocation of medical resources. Individuals who maintain normal glycemic profile despite an unfavorable PRS – or develop T2D despite a favorable PRS – may be of particular interest, since the discordance between polygenic susceptibility and clinical phenotype in these individuals could result from a disproportionate influence of environment. As such, this study can lead to interesting conclusions on the “nature vs nurture” of T2D in youth. Finally, a clear understanding of the genetic predisposition to obesity may help to destigmatize obesity among patients, their health care providers, and the general public.
Date proposal received: 
Monday, 22 February, 2021
Date proposal approved: 
Tuesday, 23 February, 2021
Keywords: 
Genetic epidemiology (including association studies and mendelian randomisation), Diabetes, GWAS, Genetic epidemiology

B3722 - Associations of Cardiorespiratory Fitness Body Composition Physical Activity and Sedentary Time with Cardiometabolic risks - 03/05/2021

B number: 
B3722
Principal applicant name: 
Andrew O. Agbaje | University of Eastern Finland (Finland)
Co-applicants: 
Samuel Barmi, RN, MPH, Prof. Alan R. Barker, Prof. Tomi-Pekka Tuomainen
Title of project: 
Associations of Cardiorespiratory Fitness, Body Composition, Physical Activity and Sedentary Time with Cardiometabolic risks
Proposal summary: 

Components of physical fitness such as physical activity and body composition has been associated with cardiometabolic risk factors in children and adolescents in several cross-sectional and a few longitudinal studies. However, it remains unclear how objectively measured cardiorespiratory fitness, physical activity, and sedentary time and body composition associates with individual and clustered cardiometabolic risk factors from childhood (9 years) through young adulthood (24.5 years). Our current projects B3455 and B3622 are investigating the roles of these predictors with vascular outcomes from childhood through young adulthood. For a holistic understanding of the interrelatedness of vascular and cardiometabolic health across early life, we are therefore investigating this further using our current ALPSAC project data.

Impact of research: 
Our research has the potential to improve understanding of the physiological mechanism and epidemiology of disease evolution.
Date proposal received: 
Monday, 22 February, 2021
Date proposal approved: 
Monday, 22 February, 2021
Keywords: 
Epidemiology, Diabetes, Hypertension, Obesity, Statistical methods, Biological samples -e.g. blood, cell lines, saliva, etc., Blood pressure, BMI, Cardiovascular, Cohort studies - attrition, bias, participant engagement, ethics, Childhood - childcare, childhood adversity, Physical - activity, fitness, function, Puberty, Sex differences, Statistical methods

B3720 - NCS Cohort Project ARQ3 COVID-19 and Healthcare Disruption - 18/02/2021

B number: 
B3720
Principal applicant name: 
Alex Kwong | IEU / PHS
Co-applicants: 
Professor Nic Timpson, Dr Kate Northstone
Title of project: 
NCS Cohort Project ARQ3 COVID-19 and Healthcare Disruption
Proposal summary: 

The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic is having a profound effect on all aspects of society. To reduce the spread of the infection, the UK government imposed strong restrictive measures across England, Scotland, and Wales, including the lockdown announced on 23rd March 2020, as well as strict physical distancing rules. These infection control measures, as well as the diversion of resources towards COVID-19 services has resulted in substantial disruption to UK health care and delivery.

Recent reports from NHS digital indicate a 153-fold increase in those waiting 12 months or more for elective treatments, compared to 2020.1 Furthermore, despite a decrease in those attending A&E services, the number of patients waiting over 12 hours for admission was 34% higher in January 2021 than January 2020. Furthermore, disruption to pharmacological treatments has also been reported with delays to accessing medication.

Although restrictive measures were implemented universally to the UK population, it has become apparent that not all those are affected equally, with some individuals impacted more than others.

As a result of the health inequalities, which have been well documented for decades, exist based on sex, ethnicity and socioeconomic status, there is an increased concern that these groups will be disproportionately impacted in terms of healthcare disruption.

The aim of this project is to investigate sociodemographic predictors of healthcare disruption during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Impact of research: 
Policy change
Date proposal received: 
Wednesday, 17 February, 2021
Date proposal approved: 
Thursday, 18 February, 2021
Keywords: 
Health Services Research/Health Systems Research

B3719 - Maternal asthma and offspring methylation EWAS Meta-analysis of PACE cohorts - 16/02/2021

B number: 
B3719
Principal applicant name: 
Raquel Granell | University of Bristol
Co-applicants: 
Klaus Bønnelykke, Professor, Hanna Elliott, Dr
Title of project: 
Maternal asthma and offspring methylation: EWAS Meta-analysis of PACE cohorts
Proposal summary: 

Background
Asthma is a highly heritable disease with parental asthma being the strongest known risk factor for asthma in the offspring. Maternal asthma is a stronger risk factor than paternal asthma suggesting a role of epigenetic effects. Furthermore, clinical studies have suggested that parental effects might be sex-specific.

Impact of research: 
Date proposal received: 
Monday, 15 February, 2021
Date proposal approved: 
Tuesday, 16 February, 2021
Keywords: 
Genetics, EWAS, Epigenetics

B3716 - Ultra-processed food and DNA methylation age acceleration - 15/02/2021

B number: 
B3716
Principal applicant name: 
Oliver Robinson | IMPERIAL COLLEGE LONDON (United Kingdom)
Co-applicants: 
Adam Koczoski
Title of project: 
Ultra-processed food and DNA methylation age acceleration
Proposal summary: 

This project will analyse data already transferred under project: B3258 STOP: Science and Technology in childhood
Obesity Policy

Ultra-processed food (UPF) has become increasingly common in the diets of children, particularly in the UK. Consumption of UPF has been linked with obesity, cardio-metabolic disease and some cancers, independently of total energy intake and nutritional composition. Mechanisms through which UPF effects health remain unclear. DNA methylation can be used to compute a measure of biological age using methods developed by Horvath and others. Age acceleration (AA, having a higher DNA methylation age than chronological age) measured in children may reflect developmental processes and epigenetic stability and is strongly related to child obesity. We propose to explore the effects of UPF on AA in ALSPAC children and its role in the development of obesity

Impact of research: 
May add to understanding of mechanism of effects of UFP on child development. Student will gain knowledge of analytical methods
Date proposal received: 
Wednesday, 10 February, 2021
Date proposal approved: 
Monday, 15 February, 2021
Keywords: 
Epidemiology, Obesity, DNA sequencing, Statistical methods, BMI, Development, Epigenetics, Nutrition - breast feeding, diet

B3718 - Relationships between stress ageing and risk-taking behaviour - 15/02/2021

B number: 
B3718
Principal applicant name: 
Tim Fawcett | University of Exeter (UK)
Co-applicants: 
Stephanie Hunt, Dr Doretta Caramaschi, Dr Caroline Wright
Title of project: 
Relationships between stress, ageing and risk-taking behaviour
Proposal summary: 

The propensity to take risks is highly variable between individuals. Individuals who suffer stressful experiences early in life tend to show faster physiological development, an effect known as ‘psychosocial age acceleration’. Evolutionary theories predict that individuals who experience accelerated ageing are more likely to become risk-takers, as their likelihood of morbidity and mortality later in life is increased, and they therefore have less to lose and more to gain by taking risks. This predicts a ‘pace-of-life’ syndrome in which individuals exposed to early stress adopt a “live fast, die young” attitude, whereas those under less stress are more risk averse (Ellis et al. 2009; DOI: 10.1007/s12110-009-9063-7). Alternatively, the causality could be reversed – increased risk-taking could increase stress, and thereby accelerate ageing. As of yet, there are hardly any tests of these predictions in humans, and none that investigate causality. In this project, we will test whether groups of people who have inherited different genetic variants for epigenetic age acceleration differ in their risk-taking behaviour; or, conversely, whether those who have inherited different genetic variants for risk-taking behaviour differ in epigenetic markers of ageing.

Impact of research: 
This project will be the first to investigate the causal relationship between biological aging and risk-taking behaviours. In doing this, insights from this project will contribute to our understanding of the biological basis of human risky behaviours.
Date proposal received: 
Thursday, 11 February, 2021
Date proposal approved: 
Monday, 15 February, 2021
Keywords: 
Genetic epidemiology (including association studies and mendelian randomisation), Addiction - e.g. alcohol, illicit drugs, smoking, gambling, etc., Behaviour - e.g. antisocial behaviour, risk behaviour, etc., Statistical methods, Ageing, Biological samples -e.g. blood, cell lines, saliva, etc., Childhood - childcare, childhood adversity, Epigenetics, Genetic epidemiology, Mendelian randomisation, Social science

B3717 - European resource for research into the early life origins of asthma allergy and eczema across the life course EU Child Cohor - 17/02/2021

B number: 
B3717
Principal applicant name: 
Liesbeth Duijts | The Generation R Study Group (the Netherlands)
Co-applicants: 
Annemiek Mian, MSc
Title of project: 
European resource for research into the early life origins of asthma, allergy, and eczema across the life course. EU Child Cohor
Proposal summary: 

Since 2003, novel birth cohorts arose and prevalences of asthma, allergy and eczema have not been studied. Combining these data might lead to better understanding of a.o. the impact of these conditions. The aim of our project is to describe the harmonization process of asthma, allergy, and eczema, and relevant related data. We will perform a meta-analysis using individual participant data of cohorts participating in the EU Child Cohort Network and describe the prevalences of wheezing, asthma, upper and lower respiratory tract infections, lung function values, inhalant allergy, inhalant allergic sensitization, food allergy, food allergic sensitization, itchy rash and eczema measured at each age from birth until adolescence while taking country of cohort and main subject characteristics into account. Additionally,we provide a framework for further research into early life stressors, genetic, epigenetic, and microbiome pathways on the risk of developing respiratory and related outcomes.

Impact of research: 
Very high impact, because since 2003 no new prevalence data of respiratory and allergy outcomes have been published, while combining data from different cohorts.
Date proposal received: 
Wednesday, 10 February, 2021
Date proposal approved: 
Thursday, 11 February, 2021
Keywords: 
Epidemiology, Allergy, Eczema, Respiratory - asthma, Statistical methods, Cohort studies - attrition, bias, participant engagement, ethics, Childhood - childcare, childhood adversity, Environment - enviromental exposure, pollution, Growth, Sex differences

B3715 - COVID-19 specific antibody testing in ALSPAC G0/G1 - 11/02/2021

B number: 
B3715
Principal applicant name: 
Nic Timpson | University of Bristol (United Kingdom)
Co-applicants: 
Ms Lynn Molloy, Dr Kate Northstone, Dr Sue Ring
Title of project: 
COVID-19 specific antibody testing in ALSPAC (G0/G1)
Proposal summary: 

The study aims to estimate how many people in ALSPAC have been infected with the virus that causes COVID-19. We don’t know yet if having antibodies gives someone long-lasting protection from the virus. The results of this study may help guide public health policy and the government’s plan for its antibody testing strategy.

Other population-based research studies in the UK are also asking their participants to complete the same antibody test. Analysing the information from ALSPAC alongside these other studies will allow a greater understanding of variations across ethnicity, age, socio-economic status and geography. We can use these antibody test results in several ways alongside information already collected in ALSPAC. Such as
information on COVID-19 symptoms, (already collected via questionnaires) medical outcomes, (through record linkage), and data from other clinics and questionnaire that could be related.

Impact of research: 
This work has the chance to assess antibody response VS infection rate VS clinical presentation in Bristol with a home-based test able also to compare patters in Bristol to those in other (demographically different) cities/areas. Careful interpretation of the data will be required, however this work does have the chance to inform understanding of infection, prevalence, age differences, socio-demographic gradients, life course contributions to outcomes and susceptibility and the utility of this form of testing.
Date proposal received: 
Tuesday, 9 February, 2021
Date proposal approved: 
Tuesday, 9 February, 2021
Keywords: 
Immunology, Infection, Biological samples -e.g. blood, cell lines, saliva, etc.

B3713 - Nutrition and immunity in pregnancy maternal responses and consequences for offspring - 08/02/2021

B number: 
B3713
Principal applicant name: 
Sinead English | School of Biological Sciences, University of Bristol (United Kingdom)
Co-applicants: 
Dr Doretta Caramaschi, Dr Gemma Sharp
Title of project: 
Nutrition and immunity in pregnancy: maternal responses and consequences for offspring
Proposal summary: 

During pregnancy, the immune system faces a particular challenge of protecting mother and vulnerable offspring. Mothers rely on nutrients to maintain their physiological condition and immune system, as well as to nourish developing young. A key question is: when mothers face challenges to their physiological state, how do they adjust energy allocation to protect themselves and their young? When does this result in adverse outcomes, such as pre-term birth? To date, most research on pregnancy and immunity involves longitudinal studies in humans or experiments on laboratory rodents. We have a solid understanding of how nutrition or inflammation in pregnancy influences birth timing, offspring physiology and behaviour. Surprisingly few studies have, however, considered the interaction between nutrition and inflammation. This project will aim to fill this gap by using a diverse toolkit: evolutionary models, experiments in insect models of pregnancy, and analyses of human cohort studies.

Impact of research: 
This project will provide fundamental insights on how maternal nutrition and immune responses interact to determine pregnancy outcomes and longer-term consequences for offspring, across diverse organisms. In the longer term, it can also yield insights to improve birth outcomes: for example, if inflammatory responses in pregnancy cause an increased risk of pre-term birth, what are the nutritional interventions that could reduce this risk?
Date proposal received: 
Monday, 1 February, 2021
Date proposal approved: 
Monday, 8 February, 2021
Keywords: 
Epidemiology, Infection, Pregnancy - e.g. reproductive health, postnatal depression, birth outcomes, etc., Statistical methods, EWAS, Biological samples -e.g. blood, cell lines, saliva, etc., Birth outcomes, Environment - enviromental exposure, pollution, Immunity, Mothers - maternal age, menopause, obstetrics, Nutrition - breast feeding, diet, Offspring

B3714 - Hypersensitivities and Aversions across the 5-senses - 09/03/2021

B number: 
B3714
Principal applicant name: 
Julia Simner | University of Sussex (UK)
Co-applicants: 
Dr Louisa Rinaldi
Title of project: 
Hypersensitivities and Aversions across the 5-senses
Proposal summary: 

Most people have a comfortable tolerance for information received via their sense organs (i.e., sounds, tastes, smells etc.) while others have SENSORY SENSITIVITIES (i.e., over-reactivity, such as when sounds feel too loud) or SENSORY AVERSIONS (negative emotional responses, e.g., when sounds trigger anger, e.g., to the sound of chewing). Our prior proposal (approved and ongoing) investigates AUDITORY sensitivities (hyperacusis and misophonia; where sounds cause pain, or distress/anger respectively). However, sound-difficulties are just one branch of a broader profile which can affect multiple senses, and cause considerable negative impact in day to day life. For example, broad sensory sensitivities play a significant role in anxiety disorder (sometimes via neurodevelopmental conditions such as autism). With poor well-being and anxiety placing substantial financial burden on society (e.g., £12 billion invested annually by the NHS), our study aims to better understand sensory sensitivities and aversions with a questionnaire that identifies those ALSPAC participants who have such difficulties across multiple senses. The wealth of ALSPAC back-data will then allow us to “reach back” into their childhood, to explore their early development in terms of wellbeing, mental health, mood and feelings (DAWBA, Strengths and difficulties, mood and feelings, PANAS, Locus of control, anxiety) as well as their cognitive skills (eg., attention tasks), and schooling attainment (school key stage linked data). We predict that adults with sensory sensitivities/aversions were likely already expressing poorer mental well-being at a younger age, and may have heightened scores on tasks such as attention-to-detail and obsessive control, and potentially lower scores on school attendance and attainment.

Impact of research: 
The impact of our research is likely to be considerable, both in terms of developments in the field, and also on the lives of people who struggle with sensory difficulties. For the field, our work aims to make the first distinction between sensory SENSITIVITIES (caused by over-stimulation; i.e., sensory bombardment) and sensory AVERSIONS (caused by an affective or emotional dysregulation; e.g., anger-responses). And within this latter we aim to provide a grand theory of sensory aversions where these had been studied previously only in the auditory domain (as misophonia). In other words, we hope to show for the first time that misophonia may be a sub-category of a wider family of aversions we term misesthesia (hatred of sensations), and that these differ in quality and aetiology to sensory sensitivities.
Date proposal received: 
Tuesday, 2 February, 2021
Date proposal approved: 
Thursday, 4 February, 2021
Keywords: 
Mental health - Psychology, Psychiatry, Cognition, Behaviour - e.g. antisocial behaviour, risk behaviour, etc., Developmental disorders - autism, Eating disorders - anorexia, bulimia, Mental health, Sensory differences; sensory sensitivities ; sensory aversions, Statistical methods, Childhood - childcare, childhood adversity, Cognition - cognitive function, Development, Intelligence - memory, Mothers - maternal age, menopause, obstetrics, Parenting, Psychology - personality

B3707 - Assessing young adult e-cigarette use and perceptions - 02/02/2021

B number: 
B3707
Principal applicant name: 
Katherine East | University of Waterloo (School of Public Health & Health Systems) & King's College London (Addictions Department, IoPPN)
Co-applicants: 
Professor Ann McNeill, Dr Sara Hitchman, Dr Ioannis Bakolis, Dr Jasmine Khouja, Dr Amy Taylor, Dr Olivia Maynard, Professor Marcus Munafò
Title of project: 
Assessing young adult e-cigarette use and perceptions
Proposal summary: 

Smoking is the world's leading preventable cause of morbidity and mortality, killing over seven million people annually. Cigarettes contain nicotine, which is highly addictive. E-cigarettes are less harmful than smoking, can successfully deliver nicotine, and can help some smokers quit. However, their long-term health effects are unknown, and there are concerns about e-cigarette use among non-smokers, including long-term use, nicotine dependence and potentially transitions to smoking.

This project aims to examine the patterns and predictors of e-cigarette use and smoking among young people in ALSPAC, with a focus on perceptions and attitudes towards use.

Impact of research: 
This project has the potential to impact e-cigarette and smoking policy and research. Findings will contribute towards the understanding of: 1. Whether non-smoking young adults are becoming regular users of e-cigarettes, dependent on nicotine, and/or transitioning to smoking. 2. Which groups of non-smokers are at-risk for regular e-cigarette use and/or nicotine dependence. 3. Which modifiable predictors of e-cigarette use could be targeted by prevention efforts.
Date proposal received: 
Monday, 1 February, 2021
Date proposal approved: 
Tuesday, 2 February, 2021
Keywords: 
Epidemiology, Addiction - e.g. alcohol, illicit drugs, smoking, gambling, etc., Behaviour - e.g. antisocial behaviour, risk behaviour, etc., Statistical methods, Nicotine, tobacco.

B3711 - Proteomics of eczema substudy - 08/02/2021

B number: 
B3711
Principal applicant name: 
Lavinia Paternoster | University of Bristol, MRC-IEU (UK)
Co-applicants: 
Prof Sinead Langan, Dr Josine Min
Title of project: 
Proteomics of eczema substudy
Proposal summary: 

Complex traits such as eczema are a significant burden on sufferers, their families and the health service. Dissecting the molecular mechanism (eg. DNA, RNA and proteins) in clinical samples of individuals with different subtyped of disease is essential for understanding, detecting, preventing and treating disease onset and progression. The ALSPAC eczema substudy has recruited 256 individuals to specifically study the molecular signatures of eczema subtypes. Skin and blood samples from these individuals are being prepared for RNA expression and DNA methylation profiling. We now propose to extend this to proteomic profiling (using the Olink Explore inflammation panel) of the plasma samples which have already been collected. Analysis of these proteins across subtypes of disease (and in combination with expression and methylation data) will allow us to more fully characterise the molecular signatures of eczema. This will in turn identify biomarkers that could be useful for detection and prediction of disease (and disease progression), as well as identifying proteins which might make for novel drug targets.

Impact of research: 
The aim is to identify novel biomarkers and/or drug targets for subtypes of eczema. With appropriate translation, this would improve diagnosis and treatment options of patients. through the BIOMAP consortium we have appropriate academic and industrial collaborators, to ensure this route to impact is accomplished.
Date proposal received: 
Sunday, 31 January, 2021
Date proposal approved: 
Monday, 1 February, 2021
Keywords: 
Epidemiology, Eczema, Proteomics, Dermatology

B3708 - Using Multiverse Analysis to Investigate the Relationship Between Breast-Feeding and IQ - 16/02/2021

B number: 
B3708
Principal applicant name: 
Marcus Munafo | University of Bristol, MRC IEU
Co-applicants: 
Dr Hannah Sallis, Natalie Thurlby, Mark Gibson
Title of project: 
Using Multiverse Analysis to Investigate the Relationship Between Breast-Feeding and IQ
Proposal summary: 

Often a large number of equally plausible possible analysis options are available to researchers. Multiverse analysis is a proposed way of overcoming this problem where all plausible analyses are conducted and the results of all are interpreted in the context of each other. This information can be used as a measure of the reliability of a result, which in turn is useful for scientific advancement and deciding policy. However, multiverse analysis can be time consuming and complex. This project will use ALSPAC data to test and inform the building of an R/python package to conduct multiverse analysis, which is currently being built. This package will make multiverse analysis easier to conduct, encouraging greater adoption of this technique across the health sciences.

Impact of research: 
This research will contribute to the creation of an analysis package which will help make multiverse analysis easier to conduct, encouraging greater adoption of this technique across the health sciences.
Date proposal received: 
Thursday, 28 January, 2021
Date proposal approved: 
Monday, 1 February, 2021
Keywords: 
Methodology, Statistics and Computer Science., Statistical methods, Breast feeding, Cognition - cognitive function

B3706 - Risk behaviours and mental health outcomes Investigation of possible genetic overlap - 01/02/2021

B number: 
B3706
Principal applicant name: 
Tim Morris | University of Bristol (United Kingdom)
Co-applicants: 
Miss Amy Campbell, Dr Caroline Wright
Title of project: 
Risk behaviours and mental health outcomes: Investigation of possible genetic overlap
Proposal summary: 

Modifiable risk behaviours include smoking, alcohol intake, drug use, poor diet, and physical inactivity. Participation in risk behaviours in adolescence is associated with poorer mental health at age 18. Participation in risk behaviours and poor mental health are both independently associated with poorer health outcomes later in life and reduced life expectancy. Previous genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have identified genetic variants associated with participation in risk behaviours, depression, anxiety and wellbeing. Given the associations between risk behaviours and mental health outcomes, it is important to understand the genetic overlap between these.

Impact of research: 
A better understanding of the genetic overlap between participation in risk behaviours and these mental health outcomes would: 1. increase the understanding of the aetiological pathway between the exposure (engagement in risk behaviour) and outcome (poorer mental health) 2. improve the identification of intervention targets.
Date proposal received: 
Tuesday, 26 January, 2021
Date proposal approved: 
Monday, 1 February, 2021
Keywords: 
Genetic epidemiology (including association studies and mendelian randomisation), Mental health, Statistical methods, Genomics

B3712 - Effect of being a persistent picky eater on eating behaviour in school-aged children - 01/02/2021

B number: 
B3712
Principal applicant name: 
Caroline Taylor | Centre for Academic Child Health (United Kingdom)
Co-applicants: 
Dr Pauline Emmett
Title of project: 
Effect of being a persistent picky eater on eating behaviour in school-aged children
Proposal summary: 

Picky eating behaviour is young children causes parents and carers an immense amount of stress. In most children, the behaviour gradually disappears from school age onwards with no lasting ill effects. There is, however, a small group of children for whom the behaviour becomes 'ingrained' and lasts beyond this age. We'd like to look at these children in comparison with children who don't have this longer-lasting picky eating behaviour to look at the effects on their eating habits during later primary school years. We'd also like to find out how parents' worry about their child's eating as a toddler affects the child's eating behaviour at school age in these children.

Impact of research: 
Our work on picky eating has already had a high impact with high media interest, etc. We expect a similar level of interest.
Date proposal received: 
Monday, 1 February, 2021
Date proposal approved: 
Monday, 1 February, 2021
Keywords: 
Epidemiology, Child development, Statistical methods, Nutrition - breast feeding, diet

B3709 - Analysis of developmental relations between co-occurring mental health problems to inform interventions - 02/02/2021

B number: 
B3709
Principal applicant name: 
Lydia Gabriela Speyer | University of Edinburgh (United Kingdom)
Co-applicants: 
Dr Aja Louise Murray
Title of project: 
Analysis of developmental relations between co-occurring mental health problems to inform interventions
Proposal summary: 

Mental health problems represent one of the leading drivers of overall disease burden. Half of all lifetime psychiatric disorders present before adulthood, with a point prevalence of between 10% and 20% of children and adolescents experiencing mental health difficulties. In addition, more than 40 percent of youths with a lifetime psychiatric disorder go on to develop at least one additional mental illness concurrently or later in life. This adds significant complexity to diagnosis and interventions and further increases the likelihood of negative outcomes, such as criminality, low educational attainment and unemployment. A developmental perspective that investigates the interrelations between multiple mental health issues from early life up until adulthood is likely to offer important insights into why mental health problems commonly co-occur and can consequently inform prevention strategies. In the current project, using state-of-the art statistical techniques, we propose to analyse the developmental relations of mental health problems. We will further examine potential factors linking mental health problems together such as genetic predispositions to mental health problems, perinatal risk factors, and school problems. The results of this project will have important clinical implications. In particular, they will shed light on potential risk factors that drive the development of co-occurring mental health problems, give insights into which symptoms are likely to precede other symptoms and further help identify other factors that might exacerbate the development of co-occurring mental health problems. Thus, findings will inform early intervention strategies for preventing the development of secondary mental health disorders.

Impact of research: 
Findings of this research will have important implications for the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of co-occurring mental health problems. First, the project will shed light on different patterns of co-occurring mental health problems as well as underlying risk factors that increase the likelihood of suffering from co-occurring mental health problems. This will inform diagnostic criteria and will help to reduce the prevalence of co-occurring mental health problems through targeted interventions. Second, through examining the direct and indirect links between symptoms of different mental health difficulties and other potential risk factors, results will illuminate mechanisms that underlie the developmental course through which co-occurring disorders develop. This will help to improve targeted early intervention strategies that have the potential to prevent the development of secondary mental health problems. Overall, this project will help reduce the prevalence of mental health issues and improve long-term outcomes for children and adolescences suffering from a mental health disorder. Findings will be disseminated through publications in international peer-reviewed journals and will be presented at national and international conferences.
Date proposal received: 
Thursday, 28 January, 2021
Date proposal approved: 
Monday, 1 February, 2021
Keywords: 
Mental health - Psychology, Psychiatry, Cognition, Behaviour - e.g. antisocial behaviour, risk behaviour, etc., Developmental disorders - autism, Mental health, Statistical methods, Childhood - childcare, childhood adversity, Cognition - cognitive function, Development, Genetic epidemiology

B3703 - Development of mental illness and cardiometabolic comorbidities - 25/01/2021

B number: 
B3703
Principal applicant name: 
Rona J Strawbridge | University of Glasgow (Scotland)
Co-applicants: 
Professor Daniel J Smith, Dr Breda Cullen, Dr Donald Lyall, Dr Joey Ward
Title of project: 
Development of mental illness and cardiometabolic comorbidities
Proposal summary: 

It is well known that severe mental illness (such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and major depressive disorder) gives an increased risk for cardiometabolic diseases (including obesity, type 2 diabetes and heart disease). Recent evidence suggests that there are biological mechanisms that are shared by mental illness and cardiometabolic disease. This project will explore whether the associations between genetics, mental illness and cardiometabolic disease that we have reported in adults are already apparent in adolescents. Mental illness frequently presents during adolescence, with cardiometabolic diseases typically being diagnosed decades later. If the associations between genetics, mental illness and cardiometabolic diseases that we have observed in adults are detectable in adolescents, this research could pave the way for improved treatment of mental illness as well earlier prevention of cardiometabolic disease. Improving symptoms and slowing down progression to long term complications of mental illness has the potential to greatly enhance quality of life as well as reducing health inequalities and the healthcare costs associated with severe mental illness.

Impact of research: 
If the associations between genetics, mental illness and cardiometabolic diseases that we have observed in adults are detectable in adolescents, this research could pave the way for improved treatment of mental illness as well earlier prevention of cardiometabolic disease. Improving symptoms and slowing down progression to long term complications of mental illness has the potential to greatly enhance quality of life as well as reducing health inequalities and the healthcare costs associated with severe mental illness.
Date proposal received: 
Tuesday, 19 January, 2021
Date proposal approved: 
Monday, 25 January, 2021
Keywords: 
Genetic epidemiology (including association studies and mendelian randomisation), Behaviour - e.g. antisocial behaviour, risk behaviour, etc., Diabetes, Hypertension, Mental health, Obesity, Pain, cardiovascular disease psychiatric illness, Computer simulations/modelling/algorithms, GWAS, Statistical methods, polygenic risk scores Mendelian randomisation Linkage disequilibrium score regression, Biomarkers - e.g. cotinine, fatty acids, haemoglobin, etc., Blood pressure, Genome wide association study, Intelligence - memory, Mendelian randomisation, Metabolic - metabolism, Psychology - personality, Physical - activity, fitness, function, Sex differences, Sleep, Statistical methods, BMI, Cardiovascular, Childhood - childcare, childhood adversity, Cognition - cognitive function, Development, Genetic epidemiology, Genetics, Genomics

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