What is SIMPLER?
SIMPLER stands for Swedish Infrastructure for Medical Population-Based Life-Course and Environmental Research. The infrastructure's mission is to provide national and international researchers with data for studies on how dietary and lifestyle factors and genetics affect our health, especially during the latter part of life. The knowledge can for example be used to develop recommendations on diet and lifestyle, develop new markers fore easier and more accurate diagnosis of chronic diseases and their precursors and to develop new individualized treatments.
Since the end of 2018 the infrastructure is managed by a consortium consisting of Uppsala University, Karolinska Institutet, Chalmers University of Technology and Örebro University in collaboration with the County Councils in Uppsala, Västmanland and Örebro County. The cohorts have previously been managed by Uppsala University (1987-1996) and Karolinska Institutet (1997-2018) under the direction of professor Alicja Wolk. What started as a project on diet and health among women have over the years developed to include a male cohort, repeated assessments on diet and lifestyle factors, repeated matching with national, regional and local registries in addition to sampling of clinical variables and biological samples. As of today more than 500 scientific papers have been produced based on data from the cohorts. Being classified as a national infrastructure in 2014 by the Swedish Research Council and financed as such since 2018 has enabled refinement of the cohorts on a larger scale and the use of molecular methods to study the importance of genes, proteins and metabolites for contraction of a disease, disease development and treatment.
The foundation for the infrastructure was laid in year 1987 when the Swedish National Food Agency together with the County Councils in Uppsala and Västmanland sent a food frequency questionnaire to a group of women, the Swedish Mammography Cohort, SMC. From 1987 to 1990 all women born between the years 1914 and 1948 in Västmanland and Uppland county were invited to participate in the study in connection to the first mammography screening. The Cohort of Swedish Men, COSM, were selected from the population register in Västmanland and Örebro counties and the first food frequency questionnaire was sent in year 1997. The male cohort consist of men born between the years 1914 and 1952. Both cohorts have since 1997 been assessed twice more, in 2008/2009 and 2019, the women have answered at least 6 questionnaires and the men at least 5 questionnaires. In total the two cohorts consist of approximately 107,000 participants, and at the assessment in 2019 approximately 38,000 participants responded.
Clinical subcohorts, including clinical sampling and measurement of body composition, were established in 2003 for women in Uppsala and in 2010 for women and men in Västerås. The first round in Uppsala was finished in 2009 and a second round is ongoing since 2015. The first round in Västerås was finished in 2019 and a second round is planned to start during 2021. The biobank consist of samples of blood, urine, faeces and fat tissue, from the clinical subcohorts. In addition, saliva samples from 39,000 men and women have also been collected between 2004 and 2008. In total there are over 400,000 samples in the biobank and new ones are added continuously.