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AGES Reykjavik Study: The Reykjavik Study of Healthy Aging for the New Millennium

Vilmundur Gudnason, Principal Investigator, Icelandic Heart Association, Tamara Harris, M.D., M.S., Principle Investigator, National Institute on Aging;  Lenore Launer, Ph.D., M.P.H.,  Principle Investigator, National Institute on Aging

The sequencing of the human genome and identification of candidate genes will allow substantial innovation in the epidemiologic study of aging.  Understanding genetic and environmental contributions could create novel opportunities to prevent disease and limit disability.  To address this unique opportunity, the Age, Gene/Environment Susceptibility (AGES Reykjavik) Study was initiated to examine genetic susceptibility and gene/environment interaction as these contribute to phenotypes common in old age, a collaborative study between the National Institute on Aging, NIH and the Icelandic Heart Association.

AGES scientific goals:

1.  To identify genetic and other new risk factors for selected diseases and conditions including:   atherosclerosis, cognitive impairment, dementia and subtypes (i.e. Alzheimer=s disease), stroke, sarcopenia, obesity, osteoporosis, diabetes, and osteoarthritis. 

2.  To characterize phenotypes for these diseases and conditions, and study them in relation to   genetic susceptibility, gene function and genetic/environmental contributions to disease. 

3.  To identify contributory molecular markers associated with these conditions including markers of cellular maintenance and repair, markers of oxidative stress, and immunologic and endocrine indicators.

The AGES will phenotype the surviving 12,000 members of the Reykjavik Study cohort (now 67 years and older)  for quantitative traits related to diseases and conditions of old age, and collect genetic and other biologic specimens  The IHA-established Reykjavik Study, a longitudinal study from 1967 to 1994 of over 20,000 participants collected mid-life data on cardiovascular traits such as blood pressure and cholesterol.

Improvement in measurement of quantitative traits as phenotypes will be key to improving on the current generation of genetic association studies.  Using mid-life data to better characterize an individual's traits is one approach.  More important will be efforts to better define phenotypes with imaging techniques and molecular markers.  New technology for the measurement of quantitative traits are used for instance, calcium scoring of the coronary arteries by computerized tomography (CT) and hippocampal volume by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) in addition to standard phenotypic measurements.  Biochemical or even array-based measures will be used when appropriate.  Incorporation of these methods in conjunction with data already available in the Reykjavik Study should result in improved phenotypes for association studies.

Recruitment to the study was finalised in January 2006. There were 5764 participants to the AGES-Reykjavik Study, almost 300 by home visits. The response rate was 72%. It took a lot of time and effort to participate in this comprehensive study and we are very grateful to all the participants who have shown the Icelandic Heart Association so much good will by taking part in our studies.