UEA part of £2.5 million study on overlapping long-term health conditions

University of East Anglia Credit: ITV Anglia

A new study at the University of East Anglia will look at the links between different long-term health conditions in the same person - like having diabetes and heart disease.

The UEA has been awarded £2.5 million pounds from the Medical Research Council for a four-year study that they hope will lead to patients receiving better care.

Led by the University of Exeter, with co-investigators at UEA, Oxford, Barcelona and Leicester, the project aims to uncover new links between long term conditions that could lead to better drug treatments and more focused treatments.

These new links could include a more complete understanding of which cells in the body are most critical to the presence of two or more conditions in the same patient.

While medical science has made huge strides in understanding individual conditions, in practice, many older people experience two or more overlapping conditions, known as multimorbidity.

In some cases, having one condition, such as diabetes, increases the risk of developing another condition - such as heart disease - yet for other conditions, little is known on why risk is increased and how best to treat multiple conditions in combination.

Prof Chris Fox, from UEA's Norwich Medical School, said:

The team will look at patient GP record data to define conditions present in more than one per cent of people aged over 65, and study patients who have these conditions.

They will also use millions of DNA sequence changes - the genetic information we inherit from our parents - to identify which conditions share broad biological mechanisms.

The techniques are based on the principle that inherited DNA sequence changes are 'fixed' for life and so provide a way of assessing whether particular risk factors cause diseases, much like a traditional randomized experiment.