Prevention Research Center to launch Wellness Living Laboratory

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The Stanford Prevention Research Center (SPRC) received $10 million in funding to launch the Wellness Living Laboratory, a project that will take a scientific approach to wellness. The lab will assemble a large group of research participants interested in promoting their own health while contributing information related to wellness.

John Ioannidis, professor of medicine and director of the SPRC, called the lab “a next generation cohort” because of its potential to change wellness research on a massive scale. This cohort, or gathering of participants, is the first of four aspects of the project. Participants will track various factors about their wellness and submit information about nutrition, activity and other health aspects.

The second aspect of the project is interventional wellness. The lab will offer up-to-date information about ways for participants to improve their health and will also analyze tactics that enhance wellness, including encouraging tips and preventative strategies for harmful behavior.

The third part of the lab involves the creation of a bio-bank, a large database of samples supplied by participants for research studies. The bank will host anything from blood and urine samples to tissue and genetic material. The SPRC anticipates that the database will provide an opportunity for genetic testing and hopes to track biological factors that correlate with wellness, according to Ioannidis.

Ioannidis called the final aspect of the project the “outer sphere.” The lab will publish its findings to support wellness understanding on a large, if not global, scale. It will consider both the best and the latest evidence, as well as what is established and what still needs more data.

“[Wellness] is a very fragmented landscape,” Ioannidis said.

He explained that there are many differing views and approaches to wellness without much hard data. In fact, most studies focus on diseases rather than wellness.

According to Ioannidis, one of the greatest potential assets of the Wellness Living Laboratory is its use of randomized trials. Traditionally, randomized trials take a lot of effort and time, but the Living Lab allows for numerous trials to be run on the same population. These tests will not only enhance efficiency but will also create a more formative understanding.

The project is funded from an unrestricted gift provided by Amways’ Nutrilite Health Institute Wellness Fund, and the pilot program will begin in 2015. Participants will be taken from Santa Clara County and China.

The SPRC hopes to build a system that will use technology to optimize the time and energy of the participants.

“In the past in order to participate in a cohort, people had to come again and again back to the clinical site,” Ioannidis said. “We will try to minimize that.”

Ioannidis explained that the lab is the first of its kind and that wellness itself is a largely under-explored field. He believes that the lab will also revolutionize data collecting and access to knowledge while also exploring what people believe it means to “feel well.”

“The big challenge is that wellness is a rapidly evolving concept,” Ioaniddis said.

 

Contact Alexandra Bourdillon at abourdil’’at’ stanford.edu.

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Alexandra Bourdillon '18 is a freshman from Cupertino, CA. When she's not eating waffles, she can be found reading tea leaves or quantifying the land-speed velocity of a swallow (African, not European). After Stanford she hopes to explore the world, although the Bay Area will always be her home. To contact Alexandra, email her at abourdil ‘at’ stanford.edu.