Genomics Medicine Ireland Ltd (GMI), linked up with UCD’s Institute for Sport and Health to launch Ireland’s first large scale genomic study examining the relationship between fitness and genetics.

The company describes themselves as  ‘An Irish life sciences company leading a large-scale research study across Ireland looking at the human genome to examine the relationship between genetics, health and disease.’ The company were previously in the news in October 2016 when they raised over €40 million in a funding round which was earmarked for the development of a world class genomics lab and research development in Dublin.

A new clinic has been established in the UCD Institute for Sport and Health in order to carry out the study. The study itself will be overseen by Professor Giuseppe De Vito, the Head of UCD School of Public Health, Physiotherapy and Sports Science and Dean of Performance Science and Professor Colin Boreham, Director of the UCD Institute for Sport and Health.

Commenting on the partnership, Prof. De Vito said ‘This research partnership with gives us an unprecedented capability to examine and better understand the factors influencing human health and fitness.  The study will use cutting edge technology in the genomics field which will enable researchers examine the relationship between genomics, fitness and health in far more comprehensive detail compared to previous studies.’

The GenoFit Research Study will use advanced scientific techniques from the field of genomics which is the branch of molecular biology concerned with the structure, function, evolution, and mapping of genomes. It will combine these techniques with a detailed map of the participants lifestyle to examine whether there are potential genetic factors which contribute to fitness and health.

To do this, the participants will undergo a mini health check where they will undergo a DEXA scan, provide a blood sample, fill out a short lifestyle questionnaire and take a short fitness test. A Dual Energy X-ray Absorptiometry or DEXA scan is used to measure bone density and is currently the more accurate and reliable method of testing bone strength and assessing risk of bone breakage.

The study will be open to anyone over the age of 18 who does not have any health conditions that would prevent them from taking a DEXA scan such as pregnancy. Anyone who is part of the UCD campus can take part in the study such as undergraduates, postgraduates, lecturers, support and administrative staff. It also includes people from the Belfield community who come to UCD to avail of the sports facilities. The initial timeline for the study is 5 years but that could be extended if it would benefit the research.

Commenting on the aim of the research, Amy Swearingen, a spokeswoman for Genomics Medicine Ireland said ‘In terms of what we hope to achieve, we know that many factors contribute to health and fitness including genetics and lifestyle factors and we are trying to better understand which factors are genetic and which are lifestyle or environmental.’

Dr Sean Ennis, a co-founder and Chief Scientific Officier at GMI said ‘it is well accepted that our health is influenced by a wide variety of factors such as age, nutrition, sleep quality and fitness as well as psychological and environmental factors.  Our health, fitness and likelihood of developing certain diseases is also influenced by our genetics. The GenoFit study, will allow us to gain a more detailed understanding of individual risk factors and how much of a role they play will help to develop and deliver more personalised health management’.

Rachel O’Neill – Editor