In 2017, the Netherlands Twin Register (at the department of Biological Psychology at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam) was awarded an NWO-grant for their project: Netherlands Twin Registry Repository: researching the interplay between genome and environment.
The NTR is seen as a highly valuable resource for genomics and gene-environment research with information on health and behavior from monozygotic and dizygotic twins and their family members. In the past 25-plus years around 25% of all twins and multiples in the Netherlands have taken part in research projects of the NTR and this grant will establish the Register as a national research facility by creating a sustainable data management infrastructure and data repository that allows continuation and enrichment of the longitudinal data collection for the next 25 years.
The last few years advances in genomic research have revolutionized the behavioral, social and medical sciences. As human beings, we are embedded within an ever-changing social world. Genetic influences were long thought to be largely independent of this social world in any given lifespan. This notion is nowadays called into question through the increasing evidence for the social regulation of gene expression and this calls for integrated studies of the interplay between genome and environment. In medicine, research on the genome pervades the top scientific literature and personalization of prevention, cure and care is a main tenet in innovations in health care.
Twin and family studies have been paramount in understanding the genetic architecture of complex human traits. Data from longitudinal twin studies seamlessly transitioned to the molecular genetic era, where they continue to provide strong research opportunities. The next generation sequencing and omics opportunities plus the unique, rich data of twin-family cohorts provide the perfect platform to chart the causal pathways underlying complex traits, including common mental disorders and major non-communicable diseases. By combining omics with the twin design, causal chains in complex systems can be discovered and effects of changes in one link of the chain on the next can be established with maximal control over confounding. Moreover, moderation of these effects by the genome can be tested which is an essential prerequisite for successful application of ‘personalized medicine’. This unique NTR resource will empower scientists to tackle major scientific and societal challenges.