Design, recruitment, logistics, and data management of the GEHA (Genetics of Healthy Ageing) project
Experimental Gerontology, 46:11, 934–945 (2011)
In 2004, the integrated European project GEHA (Genetics of Healthy Ageing) was initiated with the aim of identifying genes involved in healthy ageing and longevity. The first step in the project was the recruitment of more than 2500 pairs of siblings aged 90 years or more together with one younger control person from 15 areas in 11 European countries through a coordinated and standardised effort. A biological sample, preferably a blood sample, was collected from each participant, and basic physical and cognitive measures were obtained together with information about health, life style, and family composition.
From 2004 to 2008 a total of 2535 families comprising 5319 nonagenarian siblings were identified and included in the project. In addition, 2548 younger control persons aged 50–75 years were recruited. A total of 2249 complete trios with blood samples from at least two old siblings and the younger control were formed and are available for genetic analyses (e.g. linkage studies and genome-wide association studies).
Mortality follow-up improves the possibility of identifying families with the most extreme longevity phenotypes. With a mean follow-up time of 3.7 years the number of families with all participating siblings aged 95 years or more has increased by a factor of 5 to 750 families compared to when interviews were conducted. Thus, the GEHA project represents a unique source in the search for genes related to healthy ageing and longevity.
► A unique cohort of more than 2500 nonagenarian sib pairs in Europe was established. ► Biological material was collected from old siblings and a younger control person. ► Basic physical, cognitive function, and other health-related measures were obtained. ► Follow-up on vital status improved the identification of exceptionally long-lived families. ► The cohort will serve as a base for searches of genes related to healthy ageing.
Keywords: Europe, genetics, longevity, siblings