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The role of the microbiome in exploring childhood determinants of cardiovascular health

Young Finns StudyThe Cardiovascular Risk in Young Finns Study is a prospective longitudinal study initiated in 1980. It is one of the largest follow-up studies into cardiovascular risk from childhood to adulthood. The main aim is to determine the contribution made by childhood lifestyle, biological, and psychological measures to the risk of cardiovascular diseases in adulthood.

In this podcast, I speak with Dr. Katja Pahkala and Dr. Evelina Munukka from the Univeristy of Turku, Finland about this study, why they recently incorporated gut microbiome samples as part of their research, and what role the gut microbiome could play in cardiovascular health. You can listen to the full podcast here and selected highlights are below:

The Cardiovascular Risk in Young Finns Study started in 1980. What makes this study unique?

"The Cardiovascular Risk in Young Finns Study (YFS) is a landmark longitudinal population study from childhood to adulthood to examine the determinants of cardio-metabolic outcomes in a representative sample of young Finns aged 3, 6, 9, 12, 15 and 18 years at baseline in 1980 (N=3,596). Biomedical follow-ups have been conducted in 1983, 1986, 1989, 1992, 2001, 2007, 2011 and 2018-2019 (on-going). With over 900 publications, the YFS is arguably one of the best characterised life-course data sets globally with repeated, detailed measurements of several phenotypes and sample collections. During the 39 years of the study, the participants have been extensively studied with repeated assessment of lifestyle, growth, cardio-metabolic markers, arterial imaging, cognitive function, psychological well-being and genetics. Other key data sources are national registers (e.g., records of pharmacy-claims, hospital admissions and deaths). Currently, the study is collecting biological samples, including faecal samples, from the original YFS participants, their offspring and their parents to provide an understanding of the mechanisms of intergenerational transmission in humans."

You recently incorporated gut microbiome samples into the study. What role does the gut microbiome play in this study?

“During past decade, the gut microbiota has risen as one of the key interesting new players in cardiometabolic health. From my perspective, I believe that understanding more of the complex interplay between different exposures linked to cardiometabolic health, including e.g. diet and environmental toxicants, gut microbiota, and the cardiometabolic outcomes will give rise to better understanding how these exposures affect cardiometabolic health. And, whether there are options to improve preventive actions.”

ncorporating a new method into a study can pose new challenges. What challenges have you experienced?

“Participants of the YFS have been great in response to this new part of the study; during the study visit when the tool was introduced, nearly all of them responded positively to give the sample. A minor drawback is that a part of them yet haven’t provided the sample. Currently, our response rate is close to 70%, with a sample n of 4,000.”

What would you describe as your greatest successes with this research?

“By far my greatest success in research is the possibility to work as a part of the YFS and STRIP studies. The challenge for one relates to the central aspect of all longitudinal studies - how to keep the participants motivated to attended the follow-ups.”

Interested in collecting stool samples for your own microbiome study? Click here to find out more about OMNIgene·GUT and request free samples today.

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