dr. M. (Marco) Boks Associate Professor - medical
Genetic, epigenetic and epidemiological studies of Gene- Environment interplay
The main theme of my research is how our genetic background shapes the influence of the environmental risk for bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.
The idea that psychiatric disorders develop as a result of the interaction between genes and environment is generally supported. However methodological challenges of such studies have limited large scale genome wide efforts. Therefore studies that focus on the interaction between environmental risk and genetic background remain timely and necessary.
However such genetic studies do not take into account a more subtle but highly relevant molecular mechanisms of interactions between environment and genes that recently is identified as a key mechanism of adaptation. These mechanisms, referred to as epigenetics, are extensive and complex and to date not fully understood. Central to our understanding is that epigenetic mechanisms influences transcription of DNA by modifying access to the DNA sequences. What makes this line of research extra interesting is the potential for pharmaceutical manipulation.
To focus these studies we have chosen cannabis and trauma as a main environmental exposure. In addition to genetic variation as a modifier of environmental risk we study gene expression and DNA methylation levels. DNA methylation is central in gene-environment interaction as epigenetic silencing of risk genes is partly under the influence of environmental exposures of the probands as well as the mother. This work is supported by a NARSAD young investigators award and a Neuroscience and Cognition Utrecht stipendium. We are currently conducting a study on the influence of maternal famine in China on schizophrenia risk and investigate epigenetic modification of the stress response in relationship with post-traumatic stress- and bipolar disorder.
Specialties: Psychiatry, epigenetics, genetics, bio-informatics
Most recent key publications
1: van Gastel WA, MacCabe JH, Schubart CD, Vreeker A, Tempelaar W, Kahn RS, Boks MP. Cigarette smoking is equally strongly associated with Psychotic-Like experiences as Cannabis Use: a cross-sectional study in young Adults. Psychological Medicine 2013 Feb 18
2: Boks MP. Progress in gene environment studies. Biol Psychiatry. 2012 Nov 15;72(10):799-800.
3: Boks MP, de Jong NM, Kas MJ, Vinkers CH, Fernandes C, Kahn RS, Mill J, Ophoff RA. Current status and future prospects for epigenetic psychopharmacology. Epigenetics. 2012 Jan 1;7(1).
4: Boks MP, Derks EM, Weisenberger DJ, Strengman E, Janson E, Sommer IE, Kahn RS, Ophoff RA. The relationship of DNA methylation with age, gender and genotype in twins and healthy controls. PLoS One. 2009 Aug 26;4(8):e6767.
5: Van Gastel WA, Tempelaar W, Bun C, Schubart CD, Kahn RS, Plevier C , Boks MPM. Cannabis Use as an Indicator of Risk for Mental Health Problems in Adolescents: a population-based study at secondary schools Psychological Medicine 2012 Dec 3:1-8
Fellowship and Awards
1: NARSAD Young Investigator Award 2010
2: Semel Institute of Neuroscience, 2009 Phenomics Travel Award