Research theme: Cell Biology and Genetics

Genetics and Cell Biology are central topics for translational and fundamental research and for clinical innovation at Maastricht UMC+.

The research has a central role in:

  • Innovating the field of personalized diagnostics.

  • Providing an improvement in identifying and understanding personalized factors and mechanisms underlying individual risk for developing mental ill-health and mental and neurodegenerative disorders.

  • Forming an academic engine to improve treatment and preventative strategies in a personalized manner.

The state-of-the art facilities at the school for Mental Health and Neuroscience and across its divisions, departments and affiliated institutes allow us to innovate and make use of the top-notch facilities and expertise:

  • Genetic analyses including (single cell) sequencing methodology.

  • Experimental neuroscience, molecular epidemiology and system biology approaches including genomics, pharmacology, epigenomics, immunological mediators e.g. antibodies. transcriptomics, proteomics, lipidomics and metabolomics, using liquid biopsies (circulating, bound and exosome-based molecules), (in vivo) brain biopsies and post-mortem brain analyses from unprecedented human cohorts.

  • Experimental systems including:

    • In vivo animal models with a wide behavioral and physiological testing site enabling deep phenotyping in animals (rodents, sheep, and zebrafish).
    • In vitro human cell models (incl. inducible pluripotent stem cell technologies, cell-type specific immunological profiling, modelling blood-brain barrier, brain-on-a-chip, and ex vivo human neuronal cells from brain-biopsies), and
    • In silico models (using computational modelling, system biology analyses and machine learning).

The research team comprise over 90 PhD students and staff members from a wide range of departments.

Research Focus

Our research is closely aligned with the clinical research themes of MHeNS. We have active research projects related to all our clinical pillars, with a particular track record in:

  • Mono-/oligogenic variants in neurology(e.g. epilepsy), pain medicine (small fiber neuropathy) and psychiatry (e.g. 22q1.1 del syndrome).

  • Polygenic and epigenetic contribution on psychosis, Alzheimer’s disease, post-traumatic stress disorder, and chronic pain.

  • Experimental neuro-psychopharmacology of depression, anxiety and cognition

    in psychiatry

  • Auto-immunity and immunological disturbances in neurological and psychiatric disorders.

    preclinical evaluation of novel treatment strategies for autoimmune disorders of the central nervous system.


  • Genetic moderation and biological mediation of sensitivity to environmental risk (trauma, hypoxia, cannabis) factors in psychiatry.

  • Blood-barrier dysfunction in neurodegenerative disorders.

    genetics of treatment response (e.g. pharmacogenetics in psychiatry).


  • Genetic imaging.

  • Lipid changes associated to neurodegenerative diseases and treatments targeting lipids.

Research and Impact

The work of our researchers is embedded in national and international efforts to:

  • Improve fundamental knowledge of factors and mechanisms underlying onset and course of illness.
  • Increase fundamental knowledge on basis mechanism underlying brain function and dysfunction, and
  • Improve the translation cycle from bed to bench, and vice versa from bench to bed.
  • Improve and maintain well-being of patients and individuals at risk.
  • Improve personalized medicine in relation to prevention, prediction, diagnosis and treatment.