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Researchers look for childhood illness links in pan-European health study


A University of Bradford academic has received a five-year funding package from the European Union (EU) to carry out research into genetic susceptibilities to illnesses in children.

Professor of Biomedical Sciences at the University, Diana Anderson, is part of a 25 laboratory consortium across Europe that has been awarded a total of 13.6 million Euros, of which her laboratory in Bradford will receive around 557,000 Euros (around £400,000).

This funding comes from the EU’s Framework 6 Programme to carry out research into factors that cause genetic defects and immune system dysfunction in children by examining them and their parents.

Professor Anderson has appointed two researchers from the University, Natalie Wyatt and Eduardo Cemeli, to assist with the study in this country. She will also help co-ordinate the work across the European laboratories, which is being led by Professor Jos Kleinjans at Maastricht University in Holland, with meetings every three months for the next five years.

The project, called ‘NewGeneris’, will study newborn babies and their parents in an attempt to identify what factors are significant in the breakdown of a child’s system, which may lead to genetic defects, cancer or immune system disorders later in childhood.

NewGeneris will link closely with the ‘Born in Bradford’ research project, and will be examining some of the families recruited for that study.

Born in Bradford was launched in December 2005 by medical researchers from Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, the University of Bradford and other partner organisations. They will be examining factors such as genes, diet, lifestyle, schooling, neighbourhood, and upbringing to help understanding of childhood illnesses and adult diseases.

Professor Anderson said: “This is very exciting news for the University, not only because of the far-reaching implications of the research but also it is the longest time an EU grant has funded research here.

“What we are planning to do here in Bradford and in some of the centres across Europe is establish a cohort of mothers, fathers and babies. We can then take various samples from them whilst observing the child’s progress to determine what factors, such as dietary toxins, that might be involved in later in a child’s life.

“What makes this research even more significant is that, until now, scientists have not taken much interest in the father’s input into a child’s development. Therefore we are appealing for dads to get involved in this study - after all, 50 per cent of the child’s characteristics are inherited from dad so it makes sense not to ignore that.”

The NewGeneris research project started earlier this month with scientists using in vitro samples to test their methodology. It will conclude in 2011.

Emma Banks | alfa
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