Dr. Logan Spector, an associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Minnesota and leading epidemiologist, is working to develop a better understanding of the relationship between children’s genetics and their physical characteristics, and which genes contribute to normal growth and development.
His team recruited participants at the Minnesota State Fair this summer, and collected genetic and physical information. Researchers took measurements of children’s weight, height, waist circumference and blood pressure. In addition, they asked for samples of children’s blood, saliva and fingernails, but these were optional. They had hoped to recruit at least 500 children, but early media coverage promoting the study helped them reach 800 participants in the first few days of the fair.
Critical to the study’s success is for participants to return to the fair for the next two years to capture physical measurements. As motivation for participant families to return to the fair, they will receive admission tickets for the 2011 and 2012 fairs.
Now that the recruitment period has ended, Spector and his team have set their sights on research at a higher level. He said that because of high-level of interest the study received, he hopes to take it to the National Institutes of Health to expand the study to 10,000 children.
This research will have applications to childhood cancer, in that children with several types of cancer appear to have different growth patterns even before diagnosis. Spector’s cancer research focuses on the causes of childhood leukemia, hepatoblastoma, and osteosarcoma.