BACKGROUND: Gene-environment interaction studies offer the prospect of robust causal inference through both gene identification and instrumental variable approaches. As such they are a major and much needed development. However, conducting these studies using traditional methods, which require direct participant contact, is resource intensive. The ability to conduct gene-environment interaction studies remotely would reduce costs and increase capacity. AIM: To develop a platform for the remote conduct of gene-environment interaction studies. METHODS: A random sample of 15,000 men and women aged 50+ years and living in Cardiff, South Wales, of whom 6,012 were estimated to have internet connectivity, were mailed inviting them to visit a web-site to join a study of successful ageing. Online consent was obtained for questionnaire completion, cognitive testing, re-contact, record linkage and genotyping. Cognitive testing was conducted using the Cardiff Cognitive Battery. Bio-sampling was randomised to blood spot, buccal cell or no request. RESULTS: A heterogeneous sample of 663 (4.5% of mailed sample and 11% of internet connected sample) men and women (47% female) aged 50-87 years (median=61 yrs) from diverse backgrounds (representing the full range of deprivation scores) was recruited. Bio-samples were donated by 70% of those agreeing to do so. Self report questionnaires and cognitive tests showed comparable distributions to those collected using face-to-face methods. Record linkage was achieved for 99.9% of participants. CONCLUSION: This study has demonstrated that remote methods are suitable for the conduct of gene-environment interaction studies. Up-scaling these methods provides the opportunity to increase capacity for large-scale gene-environment interaction studies.

Original publication




Journal article


PLoS One

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Aged, Aged, 80 and over, Aging, Blood Specimen Collection, Cognition, Data Collection, Female, Gene-Environment Interaction, Humans, Intelligence, Internet, Male, Memory, Short-Term, Middle Aged, Reproducibility of Results, Surveys and Questionnaires, Wales