From miners' lungs to a town's hearts
Due to concerns about lung disease in miners, the Medical Research Council (MRC) funded a series of studies in Wales between 1936 and 1942, finally setting up the MRC Pneumoconiosis Research Unit in 1945. During the 1950's it undertook some of the earliest studies on blood pressure and heart function using ECGs. In 1960, the unit split in two and the new unit was called the MRC Epidemiology Unit. This unit closed in 1999 after many studies into miners and other industrial workers including work on anaemia, migraine, eye disease, aspirin, lead and heart disease.
In 1979 the Unit started the Caerphilly study which aimed to recruit all men between the ages on 45 to 59 years in the town and surrounding villages of Caerphilly. 2512 subjects were recruited, 90% of those contacted.
The initial aim was to study lipids, blood factors and hormones in the development of heart disease. Later phases collected details information on clotting and blood stickiness as well as capturing information on stroke, hearing and cognitive function.
CaPS - the story so far
So far there have been five phases (1979-83, 1984-88, 1989-93, 1993-97, 2002-2004) to the CaPS. Additionally the men have twice been followed up through postal questionnaire.
One unique aspect of the study was the collection of blood samples at all stages - these samples are a valuable biomedical resource. It is hoped that the participants may undergo brain imaging tests in the future.
Over 200 publications have been published from the Caerphilly Prospective Study. Topics have examined the role of nutrition, physical activity, measures of blood inflammation and clotting, hormonal status, life style and obesity. Most of this work has examined risk factors for heart disease but work has also covered stroke, cancer and more recently risk of dementia and memory problems. In addition CaPS has contributed to large collaborative projects looking at genetic influences on health and disease.