DNA, Children and Young People's Health Resource (D-CYPHR) is the world's first national research programme aimed at furthering understanding of how children's genes determine their physical and mental health.
D-CYPHR was launched in the UK by the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) BioResource, and based at Cambridge University Hospitals in collaboration with the NHS and the mental health charity Anna Freud. The programme's collaborators aim to correlate volunteers' genetic and questionnaire data in the hope of improving understanding of childhood health and development. This will then aid researchers in developing new, personalised treatments, and improving care options for people with long-term illnesses.
'We've got a huge gap in our understanding of how diseases develop as children grow up, for both physical and mental health,' Dr Anna Moore, an NHS child psychiatrist at Cambridge University and the D-CYPHR programme's clinical lead, said. 'We've carefully designed and piloted the programme alongside children, schools, and families over two years. This has been very important as this project will also be a way to address inequality in health research.'
D-CYPHR is open to any young person, with their parents' consent, aged 0 to 15 in the UK. The children will be asked to provide a sample of their saliva, from which their genome will be sequenced and genotyped and used for present and future studies. In addition, the children will be asked to fill in a questionnaire about where they live, diet and exercise habits, their physical and mental health, and their physical and emotional circumstances. The information gleaned from their DNA and personal data will be anonymised to ensure privacy and personal data security.
'We've seen that genetics can help us unlock our understanding of diseases. Now we want to build on that knowledge by ensuring that our children and young people can access the power of genetics to transform diagnosis and treatment through this research,' explained Professor Lucy Chappell, chief executive of the NIHR. 'This exciting new project will help us develop an understanding of their genetics in a way that is more detailed and focused than ever before.'
Most health research is carried out with adults, even though many health conditions begin in the first two decades of life. By studying thousands of children's DNA samples alongside health and lifestyle information, scientists will be able to see how genes and environment influence health. The D-CYPHR programme aims to support research into any genetic condition that begins in childhood. These include mental health conditions, type 2 diabetes, heart conditions, immune condition and rare diseases.
'There is no area of medicine more exciting or with more potential to transform our lives for the better than genetics.' Said BBC presenter Dr Xand van Tulleken, who supports the programme. 'And now we urgently need research projects that support children's health and we need children to volunteer to help!'
For information on how to sign up to the D-CYPHR programme, please visit the BioResource website.