Connecting research to society


Our epigenetics research as a part of the VWO biology school exams

The Dutch central school exams are taken and yesterday - May 27th - our epigenetics research was a part of the biology exams!


May 28 2013 Author: Molecular Epidemiology

Scientists identify link between faster ‘biological’ ageing and risk of developing age-related diseases such as heart disease and cancer.

Official Press Release:

An international team of scientists including researchers from the VU University Netherlands Twin Register, Leiden University Medical Center, Erasmus University Medical Centre and Groningen University Medical Centre has found new evidence that links faster ‘biological’ ageing to the risk of developing several age-related diseases - including heart disease, multiple sclerosis and various cancers.

The study, led by the University of Leicester UK involved scientists in 14 centres across 8 countries, working as part of the European ENGAGE Consortium (list of research teams is give below) and The Netherlands Consortium for Healthy Ageing. The research is published online today (27th March) in the journal  Nature Genetics.

The project studied a feature of chromosomes called telomeres. Telomeres sit on the end of our chromosomes – the strands of DNA stored in the nucleus of cells. The telomeres shorten each time a cell divides to make new cells, until they reach a critical short length and the cells enter an inactive state and then die. Therefore telomeres shorten as an individual gets older. But, individuals are born with different telomere lengths and the rate at which they subsequently shorten can also vary. The speed with which telomeres wear down is a measure of ‘biological ageing’.

Professor Slagboom, who led the work from the Leiden University Medical Center  said:  “Although heart disease and cancer  become quite common as one gets older, some may never develop such diseases while others are at risk already at an early age. It has been suspected that the occurrence of these diseases may in part be related to some people “biologically” ageing faster than others.”

Prof Boomsma from the Netherlands Twin Register said “this work builds on the observations from twin and family studies, published earlier this year in the EJHG, that telomere length is a highly heritable trait. We now identify the genes that are responsile for this high heritability.

The research team measured telomere lengths in over 48,000 individuals and looked at their DNA and identified seven genetic variants that were associated with telomere length. They then asked the question whether these genetic variants also affected risk of various diseases. As DNA cannot be changed by lifestyle or environmental factors, an association of these genetic variants which affect telomere length with a disease also would suggest a causal link between telomere length and that disease.

The scientists found that the variants were indeed linked to risk of several types of cancers including colorectal cancer as well as diseases like multiple sclerosis and celiac disease. Most interestingly, the authors found that in aggregate the seven variants also associated with risk of coronary artery disease which can lead to heart attacks.

Professor Nilesh Samani, British Heart Foundation Professor of Cardiology at the University of Leicester, who led the overall project added: “These are really exciting findings. We had previous evidence that shorter telomere lengths are associated with increased risk of coronary artery disease but were not sure whether this association was causal or not. This research strongly suggests that biological ageing plays an important role in causing coronary artery disease, the commonest cause of death in the world. This provides a novel way of looking at the disease and at least partly explains why some patients develop it early and others don’t develop it at all even if they carry other risk factors.”

Dr Veryan Codd, Senior Research Associate at the University of Leicester who co-ordinated the study and carried out the majority of the telomere length measurements said: “The findings open of the possibility that manipulating telomere length could have health benefits. While there is a long way to go before any clinical application, there are data in experimental models where lengthening telomere length has been shown to retard and in some situations reverse age-related changes in several organs.”


March 28 2013 Author: Molecular Epidemiology

International NCHA congress “Adding Healthy Years to the Human Lifespan”

The Netherlands consortium for Healthy Ageing, chaired by Professor Eline Slagboom (head of our department) and professor André Uitterlinden (Complex Genetics, Erasmus MC), is organizing a two-day international congress  in The Hague (The Netherlands) on 7 and 8 February). The scope and structure of this congress are unique because of its starting point from the societal and human perspective, the strong multidisciplinary character of the research, the collaboration with and presence of industrial partners, and the keen eye for the translation of knowledge from epidemiological and functional studies to practical application. More information on:

Professor Eline Slagboom and the Leiden colleague Professor Rudi Westendorp, the founders of the Leiden Longevity Study, will be two of the presenters.

February 06 2013 Author: Molecular Epidemiology - Molepi

Check out for our latest publications list

Please check out the list with our latest publications!

January 25 2013 Author: Molepi - Molecular Epidemiology

Merry Christmas and a happy 2013!

The Molecular Epidemiology department wishes you a merry Christmas and a happy and prosperous and scientificious 2013!

December 21 2012 Author: molepi - molecular epidemiology

Molepi says goodbye to Dennis Kremer

After more than 12 years of employment @ Molepi, our beloved technician Dennis Kremer will be leaving us. He will start at Perkin-Elmer as field engineer in January 2013.

December 21 2012 Author: molepi - molecular epidemiology

Molepi @ the IDEAL workshop - theoretical modeling, epigenetics and trans-generational effects -

Roderick Slieker, Marian Beekman and Bas Heijmans will attend the IDEAL workshop “theoretical modeling, epigenetics and trans-generational effects” in Southampton, UK coming November 28 and 29, 2012.

November 28 2012 Author: molepi - molecular epidemiology

Molepi goes to the American Society of Human Genetics

Molepi is happy to announce that Joris Deelen, Erik van den Akker and Kai Ye of Molepi will attend the American Society of Human Genetics in San Francisco next week.

All three will present their poster at the Annual Meeting. Their posters sessions are scheduled respectively as 1436W, Wednesday, Nov. 7 3:15 pm - 4:15 pm (Erik), 2035T, Thursday, Nov. 8 2:15 pm - 3:15 pm (Joris) and 459F, Friday, Nov. 9 2:15 pm - 3:15 pm (Kai). All located at the Moscone Center, Exhibit Halls ABC.

October 29 2012 Author: Eka Suchiman

Manuscript of Willemijn Passtoors is accepted.

We are happy to announce that the paper of our PhD student Willemijn Passtoors is accepted for publication by Aging Cell.

October 22 2012 Author: Molecular Epidemiology - Molepi

Announcement for the NCHA International Congress

NCHA scientific international congress "Adding Healthy Years to the Human Lifespan - from human observational studies to evidence-based interventions and self-management of health" will be held on 7-8 February 2013 in the Bel Air Hotel in The Hague, NL

October 09 2012 Author: Molepi - Molecular Epidemiology


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