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Helmholtz funds cohort study

The Helmholtz Association will invest around €20 million over the next five years to put together a large-scale, long-term cohort study. The goal of the study will be to illuminate the causes of common health problems like cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes and dementia, as well as to identify risk factors and effective methods of prevention. The Helmholtz Association’s Senate reached the decision today.

The cohort study will observe a group of 200,000 people over a period of ten to twenty years. The subjects will be healthy at the time they are recruited and will have given their permission to take part in the study. They will undergo regular medical checkups and answer questions about their lifestyle habits and socioeconomic status.

Over time some of them will develop medical conditions, and doctors will then be able to relate to the medical data the patients provided earlier in the study. This makes the study a unique tool to gain a better understanding of a variety of epidemiological questions.

The Helmholtz Association will plan and conduct the cohort study with help from universities and other national research institutions. The planning and coordination phase will begin in 2009 and last for approximately three years. “Chronic conditions are placing an increasing burden on health care systems and presenting new challenges for health care researchers, as well. Cohort studies such as this one are helpful for developing new strategies for early recognition and prevention, especially for conditions that have a variety of causes such as lifestyle habits, environmental factors and genetic risk factors”, says Helmholtz Association President, Prof. Jürgen Mlynek.

All of the Helmholtz Association’s health centres will be involved in the initiative, with the German Cancer Research Center in Heidelberg and the Helmholtz Zentrum München – German Research Center for Environmental Health acting as coordinators.

Other participants will include the Max Delbrück Center in Berlin-Buch, the Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research, the Helmholtz Centre for Neurodegenerative Diseases (which is currently in the process of being established), and the health research division of Forschungszentrum Jülich. The total cost of the ten-year initiative is estimated to be between €150-200 million.

Press Office | Helmholtz-Gemeinschaft
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