Background: The majority of patients suffering from chronic health disabilities is beyond 70 years of age. Typical late-onset chronic diseases include those affecting the heart, the kidney, cancer, and conditions of the eye such as age-related macular degeneration. These diseases disable patients for many years and largely compromise autonomy in daily life. Due to challenges in recruiting the elderly, the collection of population-based epidemiological data as a prerequisite to understand associated risk factors and mechanisms is commonly done in the general population within an age-range of 20 to 70 years.
Methods/design: We establish the German AugUR study (Age-related diseases: understanding genetic and non-genetic influences - a study at the University of Regensburg), a prospective study in the mobile elderly general population in and around Regensburg in eastern Bavaria. In the long term, we aim to recruit 3,000 persons of Caucasian ethnicity with at least 70 years of age via residents' registration offices and conduct 3-year follow-ups. The study protocol includes a standardized interview regarding social and life-style factors, medication history, quality-of-life, and existing diagnoses of common diseases. The participants undergo medical examinations for ophthalmological, cardiovascular or diabetes-related conditions, and general measurements of body shape and fitness. The program is particularly tailored for the elderly. Biobanking of whole blood, serum, plasma, and urine is conducted and standard laboratory measurements are performed in fresh samples.
Discussion: AugUR is specifically designed as a research platform to host studies of late onset diseases. Consequently, this platform will help (1) to unravel the genetic and non-genetic etiology of disease development and progression, (2) to serve as control group of elderly individuals for comparisons with various patient groups, (3) to derive prevalence and incidence data on chronic diseases, and (4) to provide clinical reference parameters for the elderly mobile general population. This data will foster our understanding of disease mechanisms, which may ultimately help to improve prevention, diagnosis, and therapy for frequent chronic diseases. Here we present the baseline study protocol of AugUR.