Chronic and non-communicable diseases
Some of Imperial's current research in non-commuinicable diseases are outlined below.
Physiology and Disease Prevention Section
Professor Peter Sever
The Physiology and Disease Prevention Section undertakes a range of research related to cardiovascular disease and clinical pharmacology. The scope of this research includes the cellular and physiological mechanisms in cardiovascular disease and diabetes, multinational clinical trials and epidemiology.
The research is based on the collaborative work of scientists, clinicians, nurses, epidemiologists and other support staff. In addition researchers collaborate with several other groups at Imperial , St Mary's Hospital NHS Trust and other UK and international centres.
The section undertakes a number of epidemiological studies and major clinical trials including ASCOT, a major multinational hypertension outcome study, DIRECT, a large randomised controlled clinical trial of the effectiveness of an angiotensin receptor blocker on progression of retinopathy in people with type 1 and type 2 diabetes mellitus, ADVANCE , an international trial of glucose control and blood pressure control in patients with diabetes and FOURIER, an international intervention trial to evaluate the efficacy of a new class of lipid-lowering drugs- monoclonal antibodies to PCSK9- in patients with established cardiovascular disease.
Professor Simon Taylor-Robinson and Professor Mark Thursz
Prolifica (Prevention of Liver Fibrosis & Cancer in Africa) is a European Commission funded project investigating liver cancer, which arises because of cirrhosis of the liver, a chronic condition that can stop the liver from functioning. Prolifica’s research focuses on two main objectives.Firstly, demonstrating that the screening for chronic hepatitis B and the treatment of the infection is an effective way of reducing liver cancer in Africa; and secondly, to demonstrate that liver cancer can be detected early and treated effectively in patients.
The main role of Imperial is that of Scientific Coordinator of the programme and European Project Manager. On behalf of the programme partners, it interacts directly with the European Commission on programme progress and management. In addition, the College is the coordinator of the anti-viral treatment programme and of both the metabonomic and genomic investigations.
Burden of Obstructive Lung Disease (BOLD)
Professor Peter Burney, Dr Sonia Buist and Dr Nadio Ait-Khaled
BOLD was set up in 2002 to obtain reliable information on the prevalence of Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease. The first phase of the study was managed from Portland, Oregon, funded by an unrestricted grant from the pharmaceutical industry and was focused largely on Western Europe. In 2009, the management of the programme moved to London and funding came from the Wellcome Trust to focus attention on low-and-middle-income countries. When the current phase is completed in 2014, it will have collected data from all the Global Burden of Disease Regions except for Latin America (covered by the PLATINO Study) and the high income Asian Pacific region. As well as documenting the prevalence of disease, BOLD is investigating both the aetiology and the social and health consequences of the condition. The study is currently planning follow-up studies of participants in the initial cross-sectional surveys.
The European Community Respiratory Health Survey (ECRHS)
Professor Peter Burney and Professor Deborah Jarvis
ECRHS was first set up in the late 1980s to answer questions arising from the differences in asthma mortality across Western Europe, specifically whether these reflected differences in prevalence, severity or management of the disease, and secondarily whether any differences in sensitisation to allergens. It started as a cross-sectional study of a general population aged 20-44 years old with both questionnaire data and extensive studies of lung function, including the response to methacholine and measurement of sensitisation to allergens both as skin tests and as specific and total IgE. The participants were followed up in 2000, with a specific focus on environmental risk factors, and are currently being followed up for a third time. The project is mostly based in Western Europe but there were some studies elsewhere and the questionnaires have been adapted for the World Health Survey. Data from the study has contributed to several wider collaborations including GABRIEL (genome wide association study), ESCAPE (outdoor air pollution), HITEA (indoor air pollution) and, currently EXPOSOMICS (exposome).
Appetite Regulation and Obesity
Professor Stephen Bloom
Obesity is currently one of the biggest threats to the health of the nation. Food intake and energy expenditure are both tightly regulated by homeostatic mechanisms.
Scientists at Imperial are currently employing the use of cutting edge technologies to investigate how food intake is regulated. The research utilises adeno-associated virus based gene transfer to study how hypothalamic systems regulate appetite and energy expenditure. They have tested novel gut hormone analogues in animals and first into man studies are now underway with the potential for development into anti-obesity therapies.
For more information, visit their website
Diabetes Research Network Co-ordinating Centre
Professor Desmond Johnston
The UK Diabetes Research Network is a joint venture between Imperial and Oxford University. It was established in July 2005 with Professor Desmond Johnston as Director. The primary goal of the UK Diabetes Research Network (UKDRN) is to achieve benefits for people with diabetes, or at risk of developing diabetes, through excellence in clinical research.
The UKDRN is a network of primary and secondary care centres throughout the UK supported by the Department of Health for the purpose of conducting high quality clinical research in both the commercial and academic sectors.
Adapted Cognitive Behavioural Approach to Addressing Overweight and Obesity among the Qatari Population
The levels of overweight and obesity have reached epidemic proportions in Qatar and other Arabian oil-rich countries, increasing the prevalence of related non-communicable diseases such as type 2 diabetes and cancer. Studies of children show an increasing incidence of obesity with the highest rate amongst 12-13 year olds. Children who are overweight before age 12 have a considerably higher risk of becoming obese in adulthood. To tackle this problem Imperial, along with Leeds Metropolitan University and Qatar University are carrying out research into the delivery of engaging weight management programmes for overweight children. The group’s research focuses on a lifestyle education programme to encourage healthy eating and physical activity and discourage sedentary behaviour.
The programme is being designed by Imperial in conjunction with MoreLife, a UK Department of Health recognised trainer and provider of childhood weight management services. The programme takes advantage of the College’s expertise in behaviour change science and technologies, such as smartphone apps and virtual environments to deliver an engaging and effective intervention. Using the behaviour change methods (described in the UK Cabinet Office’s MINDSPACE report, co-authored by Imperial), the team will devise ways to encourage children to undertake more physical activity and to eat sensibly, for example by enabling effective goal-setting, providing salient feedback or “nudges” and messages that reveal social norms via their smartphones.
Professor Elio Riboli
EPIC was designed to investigate the relationships between lifestyle, diet, medical history, anthropometry, nutritional status, environmental factors and the incidence of cancer and other chronic diseases. EPIC was the first big biorepository, having recruited over half a million (520,000) people in ten European countries: Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, The Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom.
By studying many people in different countries with differing diets, lifestyles and environmental influences and using carefully designed and tested questionnaires, EPIC is able to produce more specific information on the influences of long-term health.
Research activities undertaken in the School of Public Health, Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics include studies on nutrition, endogenous hormones, metabolic factors and anthropologic factors and their role in the aetiology of cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and neurodegenerative diseases. Professor Elio Riboli co-ordinates all EPIC-Europe scientific research activity, including working groups on specific cancer sites.
The Qatar Biobank
Professor Elio Riboli and Professor Paul Elliot
The Qatar Biobank aims to collect extensive lifestyle, clinical, and biological information from up to 60,000 men and women Qatari nationals and long-term residents aged ≥18 years, and to follow up these individuals over the long term to record any subsequent health conditions. As the first population based biobank of the Gulf Region, the Qatar Biobank will provide a research resource not currently available anywhere else in the world for investigating the genetic, metabolic, lifestyle and environmental risk factors for the major chronic diseases affecting the Qatari population, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, respiratory diseases, and cancers. The project is currently in its pilot phase and has recruited approximately 2,000 participants as at February 2015.
Stroke Centre for Research and Teaching Excellence in Qatar
A $1 million grant has been awarded to Imperial to set up a Stroke Centre of Research and Training Excellence in Doha, Qatar. The money will not only lead to the creation of the first such centre in the Middle East but will also establish a highly characterised DNA biobank for haemorrhagic stroke. This award comes on the back of an existing $1million grant last year to establish the largest ischaemic stroke DNA repository in this region of the world. The centre will be run in partnership with Hamad Medical Corporation, the country’s leading non-profit healthcare provider.
The Centre will, for the first time, study of the mechanisms that cause stroke in Middle Eastern and Asian populations and compare and contrast these mechanisms with those from Caucasian ancestry. Ethnic minority stroke has been grossly under investigated and this highly characteristic biobank will be an important resource for scientists across the globe for years to come. The Qatari Stroke Research Centre will also be a single and central source for research and training in stroke in Qatar.
Stroke, which occurs when the blood supply to part of the brain is cut off, is the second biggest cause of death worldwide. Genetic and lifestyle factors are thought to be equally important for an individual’s risk of having a stroke. As such, Imperial Researchers at the Centre will study DNA samples from Qatari stroke patients to investigate genetic factors that influence risk of stroke.
The Centre’s research will complement the work of the Qatar Biobank, set up in 2010 with support from Imperial scientists, to collect biological samples and data from tens of thousands of Qatari residents to enable large-scale research into the causes of disease.