BACKGROUND: Single birth cohort studies have been the basis for many discoveries about early life risk factors for childhood asthma but are limited in scope by sample size and characteristics of the local environment and population. The Children's Respiratory and Environmental Workgroup (CREW) was established to integrate multiple established asthma birth cohorts and to investigate asthma phenotypes and associated causal pathways (endotypes), focusing on how they are influenced by interactions between genetics, lifestyle, and environmental exposures during the prenatal period and early childhood.
METHODS AND RESULTS: CREW is funded by the NIH Environmental influences on Child Health Outcomes (ECHO) program, and consists of 12 individual cohorts and three additional scientific centers. The CREW study population is diverse in terms of race, ethnicity, geographical distribution, and year of recruitment. We hypothesize that there are phenotypes in childhood asthma that differ based on clinical characteristics and underlying molecular mechanisms. Furthermore, we propose that asthma endotypes and their defining biomarkers can be identified based on personal and early life environmental risk factors. CREW has three phases: 1) to pool and harmonize existing data from each cohort, 2) to collect new data using standardized procedures, and 3) to enroll new families during the prenatal period to supplement and enrich extant data and enable unified systems approaches for identifying asthma phenotypes and endotypes.
CONCLUSIONS: The overall goal of CREW program is to develop a better understanding of how early life environmental exposures and host factors interact to promote the development of specific asthma endotypes.