WG Schikowski: Environmental epidemiology of lung, brain and skin aging

Head of working group:
Dr. rer. san. Tamara Schikowski tl_files/bilder/mail.gif
Phone: +49 (0)211-3389-341

Senior Scientist:
Prof. Dr. rer. nat. Ursula Krämer tl_files/bilder/mail.gif

Dr. rer. nat. Claudia Wigmann, née Köllmann tl_files/bilder/mail.gif
Dr. rer. nat. Patricia Ferrini Rodrigues tl_files/bilder/mail.gif
Dr. Nighi Singh tl_files/bilder/mail.gif
Dr. Qi Zhao tl_files/bilder/mail.gif

PhD students:
Sara Kress, MSc tl_files/bilder/mail.gif
Ashtyn Areal, MSc tl_files/bilder/mail.gif

MD students:
Paul Goerke tl_files/bilder/mail.gif
Michalis Phylactou tl_files/bilder/mail.gif
Miriam Shadouh tl_files/bilder/mail.gif

Scientific employee:
Khurshid Pia Jahan tl_files/bilder/mail.gif

Master student:
Bastian Bundschuh tl_files/bilder/mail.gif

Student assistance:
Lisann Henke tl_files/bilder/mail.gif
Friedrich W. Lukas Pawlowsky tl_files/bilder/mail.gif
Denis Polozij tl_files/bilder/mail.gif

Technical assistance:
Maria Frohnhoff, study assistant NAKO tl_files/bilder/mail.gif
Elke Link, data manager tl_files/bilder/mail.gif
Sandra Sandhöfer, IT administrator tl_files/bilder/mail.gif
Alexandra Stoffels, study assistant NAKO tl_files/bilder/mail.gif
Martina Vogt, study assistant GINI/LISA and SALIA tl_files/bilder/mail.gif

Guest scientists:
Prof. Dr. Michael Abramson tl_files/bilder/mail.gif
Dr. rer. nat. Kateryna Fuks tl_files/bilder/mail.gif


Research profile

The work of the research group focuses on epidemiological aspects of environmentally-induced aging of the lung, the brain and the skin. The main focus is the collection and analyses of data on the effect of long-term exposure to air pollution on chronic diseases (lung, skin and brain) as well as the complex interplay between the organs. They were able to show that chronic exposure to air pollution, in particular PM10 and NO2 as well as living close to major roads, increases the risk of developing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and mild cognitive impairment (MCI) in elderly women. Furthermore, skin aging was enhanced. Another focus of the working group is the maintenance of the long-standing, IUF-genuine cohort study on the influence of air pollution on lung function, inflammation and aging (The SALIA study). The SALIA study was initiated in the early 1980s by the North Rhine-Westphalia State Government to investigate the effect of air pollution exposure on different health outcomes in women. One of the main findings from this study was that long-term exposure to particulate matter and high traffic is associated with an increase in airway and cardiovascular diseases. In addition, the working group could show that high exposure with traffic-related air pollution increases the risk of cardio-pulmonal mortality in the same cohort. This was done in cooperation with the Institute of Epidemiology at the Helmholtz Center in Munich. Worldwide the working group Schikowski was the first one to show that particle exposure from traffic-related sources was associated with diabetes and skin aging (pigment spots and wrinkles).
Another main focus is the investigation of risk factors for the development of allergies and lung diseases. Thereby influences of environment-related noxae on the immune system play an important role. To address these questions, we participate in large epidemiological cohort studies: NAKO and the birth cohort GINIplus.


Projects based on the IUF genuine SALIA-Study

Study on the influence of air pollution on lung function, inflammation and aging

The aim of the current project is the investigation of the SALIA study to identify common biological pathways for the development and progression of particulate-induced chronic age-related diseases and the investigation of interactions between exposure to fine particulate matter and genes on aging processes. This project is in close cooperation with Prof. Ursula Krämer (Senior Scientist) at the IUF. The external collaboration partners are PD Dr. Christian Herder (DDZ, Düsseldorf) and PD Dr. Christian Luckhaus (Klinik und Poliklinik für Psychiatrie und Psychotherapie, Düsseldorf). The funding of this project was initially DGUV (FP 266.1), LUA NRW, EU ESCAPE (ENV.2007. 211250), DFG (KR 1938/3-1) and the Research Commission of the Medical Faculty of the Heinrich Heine University.

International Projects

In the project „Airflow obstruction in non-smoking women: the role of air pollution and co-determinants in two longitudinal studies in Switzerland and Germany”, which is in collaboration with the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute in Basel (Prof. Nino Künzli), the influence of air pollution on chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is investigated in the population-based cohort studies SALIA and the Swiss SAPALDIA study. The project is conducted in close collaboration with Prof. Ursula Krämer. External collaboration partner are Prof. Nino Künzli and Prof. Nicole Probst-Hensch (Swiss TPH, Basel). The project was initially funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNF 73BM-133148).

The Project „Air pollution exposure, its interaction with genes and the role of systemic inflammation on skin-related outcomes in an elderly Chinese population”, is a collaboration with the Max Planck-CAS Paul Gerson Unna Research Group on Dermatogenomics in Shanghai (China) (cooperation partner: Dr. Sijia Wang).The study investigates long-term effects of air pollution exposure on skin-related outcomes in an elderly Chinese population. The focus is on gene-air pollution interactions to identify possible susceptible groups and additionally focus on systemic inflammation and its role in skin-related outcomes after long-term air pollution exposure. This project is in close collaboration with the working group of Prof. Krutmann. The external collaboration partners are Dr. Sijia Wang (Max Planck-CAS Paul Gerson Unna Research Group on Dermatogenomics) and Prof. Haidong Kan (Fudan University, Shanghai, China). The project is supported by the Joint IUF-PICB Research Project as well as industrial funding.

The project „MiTyrAGE“ (Nutritional targeting of the mitochondria-tyr-kinase axis to prevent age-associated neuronal decline) has been awarded within the Joint Program Initiative „A healthy diet for healthy life”(JPI HDHL), and is supported by the German Federal Ministry for Education and Research (BMBF). The aim of the project is to identify and characterize the impact of nutrition on cognitive decline during aging. The project is carried out by AG Schins , AG Schikowski and the liaison group Ventura (coordination) in cooperation with the University Tor Vergata in Rome, and the CSIC in Madrid. The task of the AG within the project is to identify and investigate nutritional factors associated with age-associated neuronal changes and to determine the molecular mechanisms behind.

Further Projects:

1. GINIplus: Birth cohort studies on the influence of air pollution, life style and genetics on the development of atopies (GINIplus)

In cooperation with Prof. U. Krämer and the GINIplus consortium

Allergies as eczema/neurodermatitis, hay fever and asthma are increasing worldwide. In western, industrialized countries they are among the most frequent chronic illnesses. Although numerous national and international studies found associations with environmental and genetic determinants, knowledge about development and manifestation of allergic diseases is still fairly limited. Today early childhood influences or influences even in pregnancy in combination with genetic factors are considered most important. Birth cohort studies therefore are central for the detection of the pathogenetic mechanisms. Together with different groups throughout Germany the Schikowski lab participates in the two birth cohort studies GINIplus. GINIplus (German Infant Study on the influence of Nutrition Intervention PLUS environmental and genetic influences on allergy development) started in 1996 and investigates allergy-prevention by hydrolyzed formula-milk in comparison with conventional cow milk-based formula and additionally the influence of environmental and genetic factors on the development of allergies. Meanwhile data up to the 15th year of the children are available. Eczema is the earliest manifestation of allergic diseases (most children get eczema aged between 2 and 3) and thus especially interesting for the investigation of early-life influences on allergy development. Currently, the 20 year examination of the children is being conducted in which the working group Schikowski participates.

Participating external cooperation partners: Helmholtz Centre Munich, German Research Centre for Environmental Health, Institute of Epidemiology (J. Heinrich (PI)); Research Institute, Children´s Department, Marien-Hospital, Wesel (A. v. Berg (PI), D. Berdel (PI)); Department of Pediatrics, Technical University of Munich (C.P. Bauer (PI)); Division of Paediatric Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Ludwig Maximilians University of Munich, Dr. von Hauner Children’s Hospital (S. Koletzko (PI)); Institute of Hygiene and Environmental Medicine, ZAUM - Center for Allergy and Environment, Technical University, Munich (H. Behrendt), Center of Allergy Research and Education (CK-CARE), Munich (C. Kühne)

The projects were initially funded by the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety. A continuation of these projects is planned.

2. National Cohort

The national cohort is so far the largest German health study. It aims at providing a comprehensive picture of the state of health of the population living in Germany and at developing novel strategies for risk assessment, early recognition and prevention of widespread diseases. 200,000 study participants (men and women aged between 20 and 69) will be recruited nationwide. After 4 to 5 years a follow-up examination is scheduled. Together with the German Diabetes Center the IUF conducts a study center which examines 10,000 participants of the population until 2018. Since October 2017 the postal follow-up of the NAKO participants is in progress which is conducted by IUF in Düsseldorf. The national cohort is conducted in cooperation with other members of the research consortium national cohort and is funded by the German Federal Ministry for Education and Research, the Helmholtz Association and the participating federal states. The study shall serve as research platform for population-based health research.


The working group Schikowski provides statistical support to the experimental working groups.


IUF internal:
Krutmann lab
Schins lab
Ventura lab
Prof. Ursula Krämer (Senior Scientist)

Prof. Holger Schwender, Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences, Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf
PD Dr. Christian Herder, German Diabetes Center (DDZ), , Düsseldorf
PD Dr. Christian Luckhaus, Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf
Dr. Anne-Kathrin Mayer, Leibniz Institute for Psychology Information (ZPID), Trier
Dr. Ansgar Wübker, RWI - Leibniz Institute for Economic Research, Essen
Prof. Lars Bertram, Platform for Genome Analytics, Institute of Neurogenetics, Universität Lübeck
Prof. Katja Ickstadt, Faculty of Statistic, TU Dortmund
Prof. Markus Löffler, Institute for Medical Informatics, Statistics and Epidemiology, University Leipzig
GINIconsortium (Dr. Marie Standl, HMGU München, Prof. Sybille Koletzko, LMU München, Prof. Carl-Peter Bauer, TU München, Prof. Dietrich Berdel, Wesel, Dr. Andrea von Berg, Wesel)

Prof. Nino Künzli und Prof. Nicole Probst-Hensch, Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute, Basel, Switzerland
Dr. Sijia Wang, Max Planck-CAS Paul Gerson Unna Research Group on Dermatogenomics in Shanghai, China
Prof. Zhiwen Li , Institute of Reproductive & Child Health Peking University/ Ministry of Health Key Laboratory of Reproductive Health/ Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, School of Public Health, Peking University
Prof. Harish Phuleria, Centre for Environmental Science & Engineering, Indian Institute of Technology Bombay, Mumbai, India
Prof. Haidong Kan, Fudan University, Shanghai, China

Selected publications

Eze IC, Hemkens LG, Bucher HC, Hoffmann B, Schindler C, Künzli N, Schikowski T, Probst-Hensch NM: Association between Ambient Air Pollution and Diabetes Mellitus in Europe and North America: Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Environ Health Perspect 123(5): 381-389, 2015. (Review) [pubmed] (open access)

Vierkötter A, Schikowski T, Sugiri D, Matsui MS, Krämer U, Krutmann J: MMP-1 and -3 Promoter Variants Are Indicative of a Common Susceptibility for Skin and Lung Aging: Results from a Cohort of Elderly Women (SALIA). J Invest Dermatol 135(5): 1268-1274, 2015. [pubmed]

Adam M, Schikowski T, Carsin AE, Cai Y, Jacquemin B: Adult lung function and long-term air pollution exposure. ESCAPE: a multicentre cohort study and meta-analysis. Eur Respir J 45(1): 38-50, 2015. [pubmed] (open access)

Schikowski T, Adam M, Marcon A, Cai Y, Vierkötter A, Carsin AE, Jacquemin B, Al Kanani Z, Beelen R, Birk M, Bridevaux PO, Brunekeef B, Burney P, Cirach M, Cyrys J, de Hoogh K, de Marco R, de Nazelle A, Declercq C, Forsberg B, Hardy R, Heinrich J, Hoek G, Jarvis D, Keidel D, Kuh D, Kuhlbusch T, Migliore E, Mosler G, Nieuwenhuijsen MJ, Phuleria H, Rochat T, Schindler C, Villani S, Tsai MY, Zemp E, Hansell A, Kauffmann F, Sunyer J, Probst-Hensch N, Krämer U, Künzli N: Association of ambient air pollution with the prevalence and incidence of COPD. Eur Respir J 44(3): 614-626, 2014. [pubmed]

Schikowski T, Schaffner E, Meier F, Phuleria HC, Vierkötter A: Improved air quality and attenuated lung function decline: modification by obesity in the SAPALDIA cohort. Environ Health Perspect 121(9): 1034-1039, 2013. [pubmed]