Background to the project

400,000

premature deaths in 2016 from air pollution* [1]

20%

of deaths due to environmental risk factors in the World Health Organization European Region* [2]

71%

of global deaths due to non-communicable diseases* [3]

€210bn

Cost of cardiovascular diseases on EU economy* [4]

WHAT IS THE PROJECT ABOUT?

The LongITools project will study the interactions between the environment, lifestyle and health in determining people’s risks of developing chronic cardiovascular and metabolic diseases.

Lifestyle and living environments have changed. Environmental exposures, including air and noise pollution, the built environment and an individual’s psychological, social and lifestyle determinants, interplay with genetic factors leading to increasing the risk of developing cardiovascular and metabolic non-communicable diseases, such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart diseases and atherosclerosis. Researchers will study and measure how longitudinal exposure to these factors contribute to the risk of developing such diseases across the life-course.

The project will take an exposome or holistic-based approach, linking individual and societal health to the environment to define the disease pathways and the points at which to best intervene during the life-course to reduce the risks.

LongITools approach

LT approach diagram

 


Who is involved?

The project is led by the University of Oulu in Finland and involves 18 partners, including 15 research institutions and 3 SMEs, across 8 European countries. The combined team has significant expertise in epidemiology, genetics, epigenetics, metabolomics, lifestyle, mathematics, economics, policy making and sensor technology. The team is also supported by an External Advisory Board, providing independent scientific, policy and ethics advice to the consortium.

What will the impact be?

A key objective is to generate and validate new monitoring and prediction methods and tools that support the development and evaluation of healthcare policy options. This will include the development of new healthcare personal risk assessment and policy planning applications. The aim is to benefit EU citizens, wider society and improve the effectiveness of healthcare systems.


our research

The consortium’s research will build on life-course data from 11 million European citizens.

The LongITools research plan is composed of eleven work packages (WP), seven of which are scientific, designed specifically to meet the project objectives and impacts.

 

WP Figure

WP1 – Project management, reporting and collaboration

The overall aim of work package 1 is to provide strategic and operational management, ensuring the successful completion of the project within the timescale and resources provided. The specific objectives of WP1 are to:

  1. Establish and implement the project management structure;
  2. Manage the ethical, legal and social implications;
  3. Manage collaboration with the European Human Exposome Network partners;
  4. Perform effective day-to-day project management, including the assessment of results;
  5. Develop and implement financial accounting, reporting and management mechanisms;
  6. Develop and implement quality management, a risk management plan and conflict resolution procedures.

The project is coordinated by Sylvain Sebert and managed by Teija Juola at the University of Oulu. All partners support this work package.

WP2 – FAIR data infrastructure for multi-centre exposome data stewardship and analysis

Work package 2 aims to set up a FAIR, safe and robust data management and analysis infrastructure, i.e. to make exposome cohort data findable, accessible, interoperable and (re)usable to perform joint multi-site individual participant level exposome studies. The specific objectives of WP2 are to:

  1. Create a findability catalogue to make cohorts and data collections with exposome data findable;
  2. Develop a privacy-protecting data access network enabling efficient analytical processing;
  3. Create an interoperability map and tools to facilitate large-scale harmonised data analysis;
  4. Establish an open-source, documented and user-friendly toolbox;
  5. Provide training and dissemination to data providers and researchers within and beyond the project.

Partners involved in WP2:

  • University Medical Center Gronigen (Lead)
  • University of Utrecht
  • University of Barcelona
  • Ab.Acus

WP3 – Methods for exposome-wide analyses and life-course approaches

The objective of work package 3 is to cross-foster state-of-the-art statistics and machine learning to sustain the analytical capacity for LongITools. WP3 will produce scalable and interpretable methods, ensuring their utility, and to this end will extend recent successes on the use of composite scores to exposome data. The specific objectives of WP3 are to:

  1. Develop standard operative procedures to generate environmental exposures;
  2. Develop and implement methods for exploring and combining external and internal exposome data;
  3. Develop an exposome-wide life-course model linking environmental exposures and molecular signals, from the foetal period until old age, to cardiometabolic disease risk, and assess causality;
  4. Develop predictive models based on the exposome variables identifed and full resolution exposome data.

Partners involved in WP3:

  • Imperial College London (Lead)
  • University of Utrecht
  • University of Surrey
  • University of Barcelona
  • University of Oulu
  • Erasmus University Medical Center
  • Inserm
  • University of Bristol

WP4, 5 and 6 – Exposome trajectories in different life stages

Work packages 4, 5 and 6 will study the relationship between exposure to air, noise and the built environment and cardiometabolic health trajectories, including the underlying and potential modifying factors. WP4 will focus on the role played by early life exposures, WP5 will study adolescents and young adults and WP6 will study adults and older age.

The specific objectives across WPs 4-6 are very similar but focus on the periods relevant to each. They are to:

  1. Inventory and harmonise available data on the exposome, potential underlying mechanisms and cardiometabolic outcomes in the participating studies;
  2. Determine the associations of composite environmental exposures with anthropometry and glycaemic health trajectories;
  3. Determine the associations of composite environmental exposures with cardiovascular and lipid health trajectories;
  4. Provide evidence for molecular mechanisms underlying associations of composite environmental exposures with cardiometabolic health outcomes;
  5. Provide evidence for factors that mediate or modify the associations of composite environmental exposures with cardiometabolic health outcomes.

Partners involved in WP4-6:

  • Erasmus University Medical Center (WP4 Lead)
  • University of Bristol (WP5 Lead)
  • University of Oulu (WP6 Lead)
  • University of Eastern Finland
  • Chalmers University of Technology
  • Inserm
  • University of Oslo
  • University of Utrecht
  • AMC
  • University of Surrey

WP7 – LongITools healthcare proof-of-concept application for health monitoring

The overall objective of work package 7 is to design, implement and pilot-test an innovative exposome-based healthcare application (app). The app will focus on cardio-metabolic health monitoring as a proof-of-concept. It will be built by integrating the computational methods developed in WP3 for risk assessment and the wearable/sensor data developed by WP7. The specific objectives of WP7 are to:

  1. Define user and clinical requirements for app-based cardio-metabolic monitoring;
  2. Translate the requirements into technical specifications and solutions for a proof-of-concept healthcare app;
  3. Leverage wearable and sensor data for integrating longitudinal environmental, lifestyle and personal medical data;
  4. Test the application with retrospective data in terms of accuracy and sensitivity;
  5. Test the application in a feasibility study in terms of usability and compile feedback for fine-tuning the design and implementation of the tools.

Main partners involved in WP7:

  • University of Barcelona (Lead)
  • University of Eastern Finland
  • University of Oslo
  • Ab.Acus
  • Cynexo

WP8 – Economic implications and econometric modelling

Work package 8 will perform econometric analysis of non-communicable disease burden due to the external exposome, within an economic life-course model of health production. Furthermore, WP8 will evaluate policy-relevant ‘what-if’ scenarios using a dynamic microsimulation model. The specific objectives of WP8 are to:

  1. Inventory, harmonise and foster availability of data on health care utilisation and expenditure available in the LongITools datasets;
  2. Generate a database of policies, laws and regulations related to the external exposome implemented in the countries represented in the project;
  3. Perform econometric analyses on the causal impact of the external exposome on markers of cardiometabolic non communicable diseases.;
  4. Build an economic dynamic life-course model of health production to examine how multiple exposures to the external exposome interact and cumulate over time;
  5. Build a dynamic microsimulation model to assess the economic burden of the external exposome as a determinant of cardiometabolic non communicable diseases.

Partners involved in WP8:

  • University of Tor Vergata Rome (Lead)
  • University College London

WP9 – Communication, dissemination and exploitation

Work package 9 is the communication, dissemination and exploitation work package. The specific objectives of WP9 are to:

  1. Develop and implement a multi-stakeholder impact plan for effective communication and collaboration with project stakeholders;
  2. Coordinate and provide a platform for the efficient dissemination of project results;
  3. Ensure successful engagement with policymakers throughout the project and convert LongITools results into evidence-based policy options;
  4. Create a sustainable legacy through training and international outreach;
  5. Facilitate the effective exploitation of project results.

Beta is leading WP9, supported by the University of Oulu and all other partners in the consortium.

WP10 – European Human Exposome Network activities

Work package 10 is a collaborative interface between the LongITools project and the 8 other projects of the European Human Exposome Network. It aims to put together a sustainable toolbox for rapid scientific transfer, efficient communication and targeted policy making to impact ‘health and environment dynamics’.

Partners involved in WP10:

  • University of Oulu (Lead)
  • Beta

The other projects in the Network are: ATHLETE, EPHOR, EQUAL-LIFE, EXIMIOUSE, EXPANSE, HEAP, HEDIMED, REMEDIA.

 

 

WP11 – Ethics requirements

Work package 11 plays an essential role in monitoring the ethics and data related issues for the project. Its role is to verify that all data used in LongITools complies with the national and international regulations and ethics requirements concerning data collection, storage, use, reuse and protection. It will ensure that the LongITools metadata will be made FAIR and GDPR compliant.

The ethics work package receives external, independent and professional advice from Professor Alena Buyx.

This work package is led by The University of Oulu.

longitools data

We are using a large resource of life-course data including prospective birth cohort studies and longitudinal studies in adults, register-based cohorts, randomised controlled trials and biobanks.

Cohort Name

Country

Link to Cohort Website

Cohort Name

Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children Generation 0, 1 and 2 (ALSPAC)

Country

UK

Link to Cohort Website

Website

Cohort Name

Borealis Biobank of Northern Finland

Country

Finland

Link to Cohort Website

Website

Cohort Name

Cohorte des Consultants des Centres d'Examens de Santé (CONSTANCES)

Country

France

Link to Cohort Website

Website

Cohort Name

Dutch Famine Birth Cohort (DFBC)

Country

Netherlands

Link to Cohort Website

Website

Cohort Name

EDEN

Country

France

Link to Cohort Website

Website

Cohort Name

French Longitudinal Study of Children (ELFE)

Country

France

Link to Cohort Website

Website

Cohort Name

ELIPA

Country

Finland

Link to Cohort Website

N/A

Cohort Name

Fibrefects (FEF)

Country

Finland

Link to Cohort Website

N/A

Cohort Name

Finnish Gestational Diabetes Study (FinnGeDi)

Country

Finland

Link to Cohort Website

N/A

Cohort Name

Finnish Maternity Cohort (FMC)

Country

Finland

Link to Cohort Website

Website

Cohort Name

Finnish Register Sample  (FR)

Country

Finland

Link to Cohort Website

N/A

Cohort Name

Generation Rotterdam (Generation R)

Country

Netherlands

Link to Cohort Website

Website

Cohort Name

Northern Finland Birth Cohort 1966 (NFBC1966) and 1986 (NFBC1986)

Country

Finland

Link to Cohort Website

Website

Cohort Name

NOMA

Country

Norway

Link to Cohort Website

N/A

Cohort Name

Born in Oulu in 1935 (OULU 1935) and in 1945 (OULU 1945)

Country

Finland

Link to Cohort Website

Website

Cohort Name

Physical Activity and Nutrition in Children (PANIC)

Country

Finland

Link to Cohort Website

Website

Cohort Name

Rotterdam Study (RS)

Country

Netherlands

Link to Cohort Website

Website

Cohort Name

SYSDIMET

Country

Finland

Link to Cohort Website

N/A

Cohort Name

Royal College of General Practitioners Research & Surveillance Centre (RCGP RSC)

Country

UK

Link to Cohort Website

Website

Cohort Name

UK Biobank 

Country

UK

Link to Cohort Website

Website


*References

[1] European Environment Agency: https://www.eea.europa.eu/highlights/cutting-air-pollution-in-europe

[2] European Commission: Know how your Environment Affects your Health infographic from the European Human Exposome Network launch event.

[3] World Health Organization: https://www.who.int/gho/ncd/mortality_morbidity/en/

[4] European Commission: https://ec.europa.eu/jrc/en/page/economic-costs-182036