Life-course epidemiology and Exposome
What we do
Our research uses large cohorts from many countries, with biological samples, to study the life-course risk of disease, and the molecular changes that mediate the effects of exposure on disease risk.
The majority of chronic diseases are likely to result from the combination of environmental exposures and genetics. In addition, there is growing evidence that the whole life-course influences the risk of disease in adults. The early stages of life allows individuals to build-up their ability to respond to strains of different kinds and this “build-up” constitutes a reserve that allows variable resilience, often depending on socio-economic status.
The environment is a complex construct that encompasses chemical exposure (e.g. to carcinogens), biological agents (viruses, or the “microbiome”), and social relationships. To integrate a life-course perspective in research and improve measurement of (potentially) all exposures from conception to death, the concept of "exposome" has been put forward.
How we do it
We work on a variety of research projects which cover healthy and active ageing, life-course epidemiology and the effects of exposure to environmental factors.
DynaHEALTH is a European Union H2020 funded project to elicit healthy and active ageing by reducing the risks of obesity, poor glycaemic health and type 2 diabetes (T2D), and to promote social functioning and workability. The project is coordinated by Professor Marjo-Riitta Jarvelin.
Professor Jarvelin is also leading the training programme for the EUH2020 CAPICE project “Childhood and Adolescence Psychopathology: unravelling the complex etiology by a large Interdisciplinary Collaboration in Europe” and the sub-project “Analytical methods for bio-behavioural sciences - polygenic analyses of childhood and adolescent ADHD symptoms.
The exposome is based on a refinement of tools to measure exposures (including internal measurements in the body); it involves a broad definition of “exposure” or environment, including overarching concepts at a societal level; and involves a temporal component, i.e. a consideration of exposures in the course of time (a life-course perspective). To explore these different components we utilize a large set of cohorts within two consortia: EXPOsOMICS, and LIFEPATH, the first on the impacts of air pollution and water contamination, and the second on the impacts of social inequalities on health. Both use a broad range of omic measurements. The two projects are coordinated by Imperial’s Professor Paolo Vineis.
We also have a network of studies on epigenetics coordinated by the HuGeF Foundation and Dr James Flanagan. Our research implies the development of complex computational methods, like those developed in “Mechanomics” led by Dr Marc Chadeau-Hyam. This research is conducted within the Exposome and Health theme of the MRC-PHE Centre on Environment and Health.
Why it is important
We still do not know the causes of a large proportion of non-communicable diseases, but we know that they originate in early life and that socio-economic inequalities play an important role. Our research aims to improve methods to investigate early determinants and social influences on disease onset, including molecular measurements. This research is crucial for future prevention of disease.
EXPOsOMICS developed a new approach to assess environmental exposures using ‘omic’ techniques to improve our understanding of how these pollutants influence the risk of developing chronic diseases.
The aim of this project is to identify the common genetic variants and genes that influence the development and course of ADHD symptoms across childhood and adolescence.
Family-based intervention to improve healthy lifestyle and prevent Type 2 Diabetes amongst South Asians with central obesity and prediabetes.
Investigators and team members
Professor and Chair in Lifecourse Epidemiology
Maneka De Silva
Maneka De Silva
Honorary Research Associate
Karin Van Veldhoven
Karin Van Veldhoven
MRC-PHE Centre Fellow
Marie Curie Fellow
Early Career Research fellow
Postdoctoral Research Associate