On Friday June 14 from 9.15 until 10.30 master classes will be given in which leading researchers from Groningen will present the current state-of-the-art and new developments in their research field. All WEON2019 participants can join one of the master classes, no additional registration is needed.

Masterclass 1

Advances in (Epi)Genetic Epidemiology: from population to personalized risk.

Prof. Harold Snieder, Department of Epidemiology, UMCG, Groningen, The Netherlands

The technique and discoveries of genome-wide association studies (GWASs) have revolutionized the field of genetic epidemiology prompting the development and application of a range of new tools offering new insights into old questions. Using unrelated individuals with GWAS data it has become possible to estimate the heritability of a disease or trait explained by all common SNPs. This “chip heritability” puts an upper limit to the amount of genetic variance that remains to be explained on top of the rapidly increasing number of SNPs already discovered by GWAS. Those discovered SNPs themselves can be combined in multi-SNP genetic risk scores that have at least two important advantages compared to single SNPs: (i) they provide much more powerful instruments for causal modelling (Mendelian Randomization), and (ii) this integrated measure of genetic susceptibility offers an ideal opportunity to investigate to what extent the development of the disease or trait depends on the environment (i.e., gene-environment interaction). The advent of genome-wide methylation arrays has provided yet another tool to investigate gene-environment interaction in complex traits as the epigenome provides an interface between the environment and the genome and can be influenced by dietary, lifestyle, behavioral, and social cues. The current master class will review these methodological advances and illustrate the promise of multi-SNP genetic risk scores for personalized risk prediction ultimately impacting prevention of our common complex diseases.

Masterclass 2

From clinical outcomes to smart PROMs

Paul Krabbe, PhD, Department of Epidemiology, UMCG, Groningen, The Netherlands

Nowadays, patient involvement and patient advocacy are guiding principles at many levels of health care. In addition, patients’ views of their symptoms, functional status, perceived health status, and health-related quality of life are being taken more seriously by policy makers and others. This trend has sparked interest in developing patient-reported outcome measures (PROMs): any report coming directly from patients about how they function or feel, without interpretation or filtering by physicians or others. The class of PROMs are relevant outcomes, because ultimately the goal of all health interventions is to improve or sustain the patient’s perceived health condition. However, several different approaches exist to construct PROMs. We will introduce and explain these approaches and show their strengths and limitations.

Masterclass 3

Microbiome in a systems biology approach

Behrooz Z. Alizadeh, PhD, Department of Epidemiology, UMCG, Groningen, The Netherlands
Prof. Jingyuan Fu, Department of Genetics, UMCG, Groningen, The Netherlands
Prof. Rinse K. Weersma, Department of Gastrointestinal and Liver Diseases, UMCG, Groningen, The Netherlands

Our bodies harbour a huge array of micro-organisms. While bacteria are the biggest players, we also host single-celled organisms known as archaea. Together these are called the human microbiome. Over recent years, the gut microbiome has been linked to a plethora of diseases, from inflammatory diseases such as IBD, metabolic diseases, like diabetes and obesity, to psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia, anxiety, and autism. In this master class we give you an update of the new developments in research on the human microbiome, and its role in disease and health status. We will present not only the basic concepts and definitions, but also will show how the microbiome is associated  to human (Gastro-intestinal) diseases and how the microbiome interplays with other  major risk factors such as the genome and diet within the context of a systems biology approach. We hope you enjoy the master class and  gain insight in the microbiome, and that this opens a new  focus for your research plans.

Masterclass 4

Towards effective person-centered prevention for people with low health literacy – the route to improve healthy ageing in society?

Andrea de Winter,PhD, Department of Health Sciences, UMCG
Prof. Erik Buskens, Department of Epidemiology, UMCG
Marlou de Kroon, PhD, Department of Health Sciences, UMCG
Prof. Menno Reijneveld, Department of Health Sciences, UMCG, Groningen, The Netherlands

Persons with a higher socioeconomic status (e.g. education level or income) on average live longer and healthier than persons with lower socioeconomic status. Reducing these differences has long time been a key objective of public health policy, both nationally and internationally.  Unfortunately, the observed socioeconomic health differences are quite persistent and sometimes even increase after the introduction of new interventions or policies. Therefore, the Netherlands Scientific Council for Government Policy proposes to give the prevention policies a new impulse by no longer focusing on reduction of socioeconomic health differences but on the increasing health assets of individuals or communities. In that respect health literacy is an essential asset to stay healthy, to recover after falling ill or to manage chronic conditions. Health literacy is the degree to which people are able to access, understand, appraise and communicate information in relation to health and disease.

An important question is how much health gain may be attained during the life course especially among people at risk for adverse health outcomes such as persons with low health literacy or multiple unhealthy behaviors. In the first part of this masterclass, we will discuss what type of longitudinal research capturing the life course could advance our knowledge and contribute to more effective person-centered prevention strategies. In the second part, we will present a promising and innovative approach to mitigate health literacy problems based on recent European research. We will critically reflect on this approach and explore interventions or policies, which should be further developed and evaluated in order to increase the capacities to stay healthy and manage chronic conditions of persons with low health literacy.