The unit has a strong international track record in the epidemiology of chronic airway diseases (asthma and COPD).

We study the role of common and rare genetic variants, epigenetics, environmental risk factors (such as air pollution and occupational exposures), and gene-by-environment interactions in the onset and progression of chronic airway diseases.

We have a leading role worldwide in the identification of common and rare genetic variants that underlie COPD in smokers and non-smokers. Uniquely, we are linking genetic and epigenetic studies with functional studies.


What we want to achieve

Ultimately helping to unravel the etiology of chronic airway diseases and find ways to prevent, cure, or reduce their burden. We interpret novel findings in light of their societal relevance and translate our results into (societal) recommendations. Exemplary for our approach is our study on occupational exposures and lung function levels in Lifelines. We found several types of occupational exposures are associated with lower lung function levels in active workers in the Lifelines cohort study. This indicates that people may become less healthy as a result of their job and that protective measures should be taken to prevent workers being exposed.

Airborne Occupational Exposures and Lung Function in the Lifelines Cohort Study | Annals of the American Thoracic Society (

  • We discuss our research plans with a panel of patients with chronic airway diseases and check whether the answers we hope to find, are in line with the questions they have. And whether they are convinced our result will prevent the onset of disease or reduce their disease burden.

  • We lead and participate in many international genetic and epigenetic studies on lung function, COPD and asthma (e.g. International COPD Genetics Consortium).


Lisette Kuil Secretary staff

University Medical Center Groningen (UMCG)
Department of Epidemiology
PO Box 30.001
9700 RB Groningen
The Netherlands

Visiting address:
University Medical Center Groningen (UMCG)
Department of Epidemiology
Hanzeplein 1
9713 GZ Groningen

location: Zusterhuis B1 ING 27