Complex Genetics and Epidemiology

Twin Research

tweelingOur twin research team aims to disentangle how the interplay between genetic and environmental factors account for differential responses in humans. 

 A twin design is an ideal design to differentiate between genetic, environmental and epigenetic variation:

By comparing monozygotic (MZ; genetically identical) with dizygotic (DZ; on average 50% of shared genes) twin pairs, genetic factors can be distinguished from environmental factors and their interaction can be tested. In addition, discrimination by chorion and amnion type, which refers to the type of placentation and the moment of splitting of a fertilized ovum, makes it possible to unravel the influence of the early prenatal environment.

Since MZ twins have the same genetic background, MZ twins are simply the best human model to investigate the epigenetic programming to health outcome, because genetic variation is ruled out.

Ongoing research projects

  • East Flanders Prospective Twin Cohort Study (EFPTS)
  • TAMBA Heritability Study (TAMBAHS)
  • On the origin of healthy food consumption and physical activity: a consortium of international twin studies (Food Twins)

Team leader

Marij Gielen, PhD

PhD Programmes

G3: Twin Research (Marij Gielen)

Last 5 publications

  1. Tore, E.C., et al., The Association of Intrapair Birth-Weight Differences With Internalizing and Externalizing Behavior Problems. Twin Res Hum Genet, 2018. 21(3): p. 253-262.
  2. Bijnens, E.M., et al., Telomere tracking from birth to adulthood and residential traffic exposure. BMC Med, 2017. 15(1): p. 205.
  3. Bijnens, E.M., et al., Blood pressure in young adulthood and residential greenness in the early-life environment of twins. Environ Health, 2017. 16(1): p. 53.
  4. Christou, A.I., et al., Variation in serotonin transporter linked polymorphic region (5-HTTLPR) short/long genotype modulates resting frontal electroencephalography asymmetries in children. Dev Psychopathol, 2016. 28(1): p. 239-50.
  5. Bijnens, E.M., et al., Small for gestational age and exposure to particulate air pollution in the early-life environment of twins. Environ Res, 2016. 148: p. 39-45.