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The children of the Children of the 90s turn 10!

Professor Jean Golding OBE (seated) and three generations of Children of the 90sCOCO90s

Press release issued: 2 August 2017

For over 25 years, Children of the 90s at the University of Bristol has been charting the lives of 14,5000 people born in the early 1990s in the greater Bristol area. Thanks to the amazing commitment of these research volunteers, scientists have made important discoveries that are helping treat and prevent ill health around the world.

For example, Bristol researchers confirmed that putting your baby to sleep on its back can prevent cot death and their discovery that peanut oil in baby oils and creams can cause peanut allergy led to changes in labelling on baby products in England.  

This year marks a double celebration for Children of the 90s: the fifth anniversary of Children of the Children of the 90s (COCO90s), as the study of the next generation of Bristol babies is known, and the 10th birthdays of cousins Scarlet and Coby, the oldest COCO90s and children of twin sisters Zara and Josie respectively.

Scarlet (age 10) says she likes taking part in COCO90s because: "I like coming to my visits because they are so fun and everyone is so kind. I like it when I get the post telling me how my information is used and seeing what they do with it."

Coby (age 10) says: "It is so much fun, I enjoy finding out about my body. The people there are really nice and I get snacks and drinks whenever I am hungry or thirsty."

Since COCO90s started in 2012, there have been over 650 pregnancies or births, with many more on the way. Researchers are gathering the same information about the health and lives of these babies and children as they did about their parents (the original Children of the 90s) when they were young. But major advances mean they can now also collect data using state-of-the-art technology.

These have included: 

  • an environmental sensor that checks the quality of air the baby or child is breathing
  • head cams worn by parent and baby to see how they interact with one another
  • iPad games that test the child’s memory and problem-solving skills
  • a monitor, worn by the mum in her skin, to check her glucose (sugar) levels and see how her body processes sugar during and after pregnancy
  • an online food diary and mobile phone app
  • activity monitors worn by parents and children

Plans for the future include assessing speech and language in all two- three- and four-year-olds who attend COCO90s clinics.

Professor Debbie Lawlor CBE, who leads the COCO90s research, said: "We know that that health (or ill health) passes down generations and that this is not all due to our genes but also due to things like how much we exercise, where we live or whether our parents work.

"By following the lives of the COCO90s children we are able to identify how we might stop poor health being passed from one generation to the next.

"We are also exploring how changes in society affect health. For example, the original pregnant women didn’t experience the obesity epidemic as the mothers of COCO90s children now do. And, of course, we didn’t have e-cigarettes in the early 1990s. Now that we do, we can test whether or not they are safe in pregnancy."

Dr Melanie Lewcock, who project manages COCO90s, added: "We're really pleased that so many Children of the 90s have decided to enrol their children in COCO90s and continue this fantastic Bristol tradition of taking part in health research that is helping people all over the world.

"Looking to the future, we plan to study the next generation (the grandchildren of the Children of the 90s) in due course. That way we can study human health across four generations. This makes Bristol unique as no other study in the world is doing that."

Tune in to ITV West Country at 18.00 tonight [Wednesday 2 August] for a feature on the families and COCO90s research. 

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