A study that will track the health and well-being of 100,000 children from birth to age 21 will launch in January 2009 in the U.S.
The National Children’s Study will examine factors behind birth defects, autism, learning disabilities, obesity, attention deficit disorder, diabetes, pregnancy-related problems and a host of other health conditions, according to the National Institutes of Health.
Health officials are hopeful that the study, to be conducted at 105 locations (counties or groups of counties) across the United States, can help to detect early-life influences that affect later development, with the goal of learning new ways to prevent illness.
Researchers will examine environmental and genetic influences such as exposure to certain chemicals that can have adverse affects on health.
Biological and genetic samples will be collected from study participants along with samples from the women’s homes including air, dust, water and more, the NIH said.
More than $200 million has been spent of an estimated $3.2 billion on the study so far.
In January 2009, Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York and the University of North Carolina will begin enrolling pregnant women whose babies will be followed up until age 21.
Early study findings will examine factors behind pre-term birth, which has become more common in recent years, said Dr. Peter Scheidt of the NIH, who is leading the study.
It is anticipated that the first years data of the Study will be available in 2011.
This study may end up the largest ever conducted on pregnant women, Scheidt said.
On Friday, the NIH named 27 institutions that will be taking part in the study. Nine have been named previously and more are expected to join in the future.
The participants will be from diverse ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds.
The National Children’s Study is led by a consortium of federal partners that include: the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (including the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and the National Institute of Environmental Health Services, of the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. #