Population Health Sciences

Prof. Dr. Dr. Monique M. B. Breteler

Areas of investigation | research focus

We perform quantitative empirical research with the aim of understanding what determines people’s health across their life span. Specifically, we focus on the identification of causes and causal disease mechanisms that can be targeted to prevent or delay the onset of clinical disease (etiologic research). We also aim to identify biomarkers and develop methods to assess disease risk. Our goal is to aid the development of prevention strategies for neurodegenerative and other age-related diseases, most notably dementia. 

Most age-related diseases occur as the cumulative resultant of varying combinations of protective, restorative, and detrimental factors. We are interested in the effects of the exposome as well as the (epi)genome on health. To derive imaging as well as blood-based biomarkers of (healthy) aging and to find people at risk, we use advanced brain imaging and leverage high-dimensional multi-omic data. In addition, we are interested in the relation between sensory systems and brain structure and function, and conduct pharmacoepidemiologic and pharmacogenomic research. 

The Rhineland Study

To understand what determines people's health one has to study people. Our research builds to a large extend on the Rhineland Study, a population-based prospective cohort study. In the Rhineland Study, we emphasize deep phenotyping and incorporate novel technologies and insights from basic research early on in our studies.

Core data collection includes behavioral assessments, cardiovascular measures, sensory systems assessments, as well as questions on medical history, medication intake, life style, nutrition and mental health. Besides detailed clinical data, we also collect wide-ranging omics data, including (epi-)genomic arrays, RNA-Seq, metabolomics, lipidomics, gut microbiome analyses and immune profiles. In addition, all eligible participants of the Rhineland Study undergo an advanced 1h MRI protocol. To develop and use innovative methods on our high-dimensional and multimodal data, we collaborate with computational data scientists. The cohort currently comprises more than 10,000 participants – but up to 20,000 participants will be studied in total.

Current research projects

Our group is also involved in a variety of national and international research initiatives by, among others, contributing with our rich data set:

  • Cohorts for Heart and Aging Research in Genomic Epidemiology (CHARGE) Consortium
  • German COVID-19 Omics Initiative

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