Work Package 1 - Management
WP-Leaders: Jim van Os (UM) and Bart Rutten (UM)
Work Package 2 - Functional Enviromics
WP-Leaders: Craig Morgan (IoP), Robin Murray (IoP) and Marta di Forti (IoP)
Work Package 3 - Discovery Genetics
WP-Leaders: Michael O'Donovan (CU) and Mike Owen (CU)
Work Package 4 - Experimental GxE
WP-Leaders: Andreas Meyer-Lindenberg (CIMH) and Marcus Leweke (CIMH)
Work Package 5 - GxE Prodrome
WP-Leaders: Philip McGuire (IoP), Lucia Valmaggia (IoP) and Matthew Kempton (IoP)
Work Package 6 - GxE Vulnerability & Severity
WP-Leaders: Cem Atbasoglu (AU) and Meram Can Saka (AU)
Work Package 7 - GxE Course
WP-Leaders: Inez Myin-Germeijs (UM) and Richard Bruggeman (UM)
Work Package 8 - GxE Data & Statistics
WP-Leaders: Pak Sham (UHK) and Peter Holmans (CU)
Work Package 9 - Ethics
WP-Leaders: Carlos Romeo (UPV/EHU) and Aitziber Emaldi (UPV/EHU)
Work Package 10 - Dissemination
WP-Leaders: Celso Arrango (SERMAS) and Mara Parellada (SERMAS)
Work Package 11 - Training
WP-Leaders: Lieuwe de Haan (AMC) and Eva Velthorst (AMC)
The EU-GEI project summarized …
Up to 3% of people develop a psychotic disorder in the course of their lives, 1% will be one type of a schizophrenic disorder. European researchers, together with international partners, have been looking into genetic, clinical and environmental factors and mechanisms that determine the development, severity and outcome of schizophrenia.
People with psychotic disorders are overwhelmed by inner experiences that disturb their ability to connect in an adequate way with their social environment. Importantly, there is currently no reliable method allowing to predict the risk of an individual to develop a psychotic disorder.
The risk to develop a schizophrenic disorder is known to be related to both a person's genetic make-up, and environmental factors during his/her course of life, such as adversity during childhood, belonging to a society's minority group, drug use, or just living in a city rather than in a rural environment. Twin studies show that susceptibility to developing a psychotic disorder may be determined by genetics. It is assumed, but still needs to be rigorously tested, that a person's genetic make-up also influences the role that environmental factors can play to enhance/or decrease risk for psychiatric disorders.
To address the key question whether gene-environment interactions determine the risk to develop schizophrenia, a multidisciplinary, multinational collaboration within, and beyond, Europe has been initiated 5 years ago: the EU-funded 'European network of national schizophrenia networks studying gene-environment interactions' (EU-GEI).
EU-GEI has investigated genetic, environmental, behavioural and clinical variables in samples and data from more than 9 000 individuals, including families of patients with psychotic disorders, twin pairs and health comparator individuals from the general population.
In order to better understand fluctuations in behaviour and experiences in the flow of daily life, EU-GEI scientists have developed the PsyMate device and application. More information on the PsyMate can be found on this website.
Recruitment and data collection has been ongoing for almost four years in most centres, and a fully functional database has been established that handles the large quantities of incoming data from the large EU-GEI cohorts that will provide the largest set of data available on genetic, environmental, behavioural and clinical variables in psychosis in particular schizophrenia. DNA samples collected under EU-GEI are all genotyped in the project's centralised genotyping facilities, and a large number of subjects have already been genetically analysed. Approaches for statistical analyses of the complex EU-GEI data sets have been developed and are currently in use.
The full data set from the Dutch part of the study has become available and is currently under investigation for genotype x environment interactions. First explorations have already provided replicated evidence that the impact of cannabis use on psychosis is moderated in people that carry a specific variant of the AKT1 gene.
Considerable progress has been made in discovering genetic variants that increase risk for schizophrenia. Moreover, functional neuroimaging studies have discovered correlates of environmental exposures in the brain.
The prime clinical relevance of the EU-GEI project will be the establishment of risk assessment charts based on genetic, environmental, behavioural and clinical variables. These momentary assessment tools, which are amendable to predict risk to develop clinical manifestation of psychotic disorders, will significantly improve diagnosis, treatment outcome prediction and treatment evaluation.