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March 25, 2020

Joint Research Begins with University of Tokyo Hospital on Preventing Nursing Care using Large-scale Population-based Cohort Data

—Clarification of relationship between locomotive syndrome and other diseases leading to nursing care and identification of factors associated with nursing care—

Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corporation (headquartered in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo; Jun Sawada, President & CEO; hereinafter referred to as “NTT”) and The University of Tokyo Hospital (Bunkyo Ward, Tokyo; Yasuyuki Seto, Director) will conduct joint research over a three-year period starting from April 1, 2020 based on large-scale cohort data held by the Department of Preventive Medicine for Locomotive Organ Disorders, a social cooperation program*1 in the 22nd Century Medical and Research Center of The University of Tokyo Hospital, and NTT data analysis technology. This research will clarify factors associated with locomotive syndrome*2 with the aim of preventing its occurrence, clarify the relationship between locomotive syndrome and diseases causing nursing care such as lifestyle diseases and dementia, identify factors associated with nursing care, and investigate effective methods of preventing nursing care and conducting interventions with an eye to implementing them in society.

=> Molecular and Bio Science Research Group


Japan has become a super-aging society, and to ensure a sustainable social security system, there is a need for measures that take into consideration patients and the elderly as well as support personnel in conjunction with a review of benefits and burdens. These measures include “extension of healthy lifespan” and “improvement in productivity of medical-care and nursing-care services”. In particular, since the number of elderly persons requiring nursing care is increasing yearly, improvement in the quality of life (QOL) of those requiring care and their families has become a major social issue. Various measures for dealing with these issues have been studied and implemented, but since there are a variety of causes and processes leading up to nursing care, it has therefore been thought that preventing nursing care by a uniform approach is difficult. Against this background, Research on Osteoarthritis/osteoporosis Against Disability (ROAD), the world’s largest population-based cohort research targeting locomotive organs (bones, joints, muscles, etc.), was launched in 2005 at The University of Tokyo Hospital to study policies on preventing nursing care. *3
The purpose of the joint research announced here is to clarify the risk factors for nursing care from disease transitions, lifestyle, etc. and provide methods of preventing nursing care tailored to the individual. This will be pursued by combining NTT information analysis techniques with diverse examination data and lifestyle interview data of individuals in the general population accumulated up to now by The University of Tokyo Hospital in the ROAD project. We also intend to feed back research results to the individuals and intervene as needed to promote behavioral changes and lower the risk of nursing care. In this way, we would like to help the elderly achieve an enjoyable and happy life in which they can walk at all times on their own.

Joint Research Roles

At the center of this joint research is Project Professor Noriko Yoshimura of The University of Tokyo Hospital. Professor Yoshimura launched ROAD, the world’s largest population-based cohort research, in 2005 considering the importance of collecting epidemiological data in an interdisciplinary manner to identify the factors and risks associated with elderly people entering a nursing-care state owing to locomotive organ diseases. With the purpose of generalizing the knowledge obtained from the analyzed cohort data and contributing to a reduction in nursing-care risk throughout Japan in the future, the ROAD project has been conducting follow-up surveys targeting approximately 4400 individuals living in environmentally different regions, i.e., mountainous areas, fishing villages, and cities. In addition to lifestyle-related data such as an individual’s exercise and eating habits, this project has been collecting an individual’s current and past medical history and occupational history as well as data obtained from examinations and tests such as bone and joint X-ray images, bone density values, brain and lumbar spine images by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), blood urea values, and state of cognitive functioning. As a result of this research, the incidence rate of nursing care, the frequency of locomotive syndrome, and the incidence rate of osteoarthritis/osteoporosis have been reported as well as relationships among these diseases and the incidence of mild cognitive impairment (MCI) and metabolic syndrome. Making good use of these research results, The University of Tokyo Hospital will provide large volumes of anonymized epidemiological data and medical knowledge related to disease status and transition.

NTT, meanwhile, has accumulated data analysis techniques in the fields of medical care and healthcare as in using examination and treatment data to predict the risk of lifestyle diseases beginning and becoming severe. In this regard, acquiring examination and treatment data on a regular basis can at times be difficult creating a barrier to analysis, but NTT has techniques that can perform analyses and make predictions with high accuracy even with such a missing amount of data. In the ROAD project, much information can be obtained from a single examination, but given the nature of cohort research that acquires data on individuals over the long term, there is a certain number of individuals who withdraw from the project midway and individuals who participate in intervals without being able to receive an examination every time. In this joint research, we will of course analyze the large volume of individual examination and lifestyle data obtained from the ROAD project while also applying NTT analysis techniques to valuable data on individuals who have not been able to receive examinations on a continuous basis.

By conducting joint research in this way between The University of Tokyo Hospital possessing epidemiological data and medical knowledge and NTT having advanced data analysis techniques, we aim to clarify previously unknown relationships among diseases, identify risk factors leading up to nursing care, establish methods of preventing nursing care and conducting interventions, and contribute to a reduction in nursing care risk throughout Japan.

*1 ... Social cooperation program
Social cooperation program aim to promote the development of science and society and to promote and expand education and research at The University of Tokyo. These departments operate on the basis of joint-research expenses based on contracts with companies under a format different from that of conventional endowed departments.
*2 ... Locomotive syndrome
Locomotive syndrome is a high-risk state for a deterioration of motor functions due to impairment of locomotive organs such as bones, joints, muscles, and nerves. Progressive deterioration of motor functions will lead to nursing care.
*3 ... Research on Osteoarthritis Against Disability (ROAD)
The University of Tokyo: “Research on Osteoarthritis Against Disability (ROAD) begins—world’s first large-scale clinical research project on osteoarthritis—,” Press Release, June 5, 2006. (in Japanese)