Epigenetic study of transgenerational trauma in Kosovo

Project description

The goal of the study is to contribute to further understand the mechanism and molecular pathways involved in transgenerational trauma by 1) searching for candidate genetic makers in order to improve risk stratification and identify promising diagnosis biomarkers for rapid screening tests, and 2) to recommend an early intervention strategy to promote resilience against developing transgenerational PTSD in the offspring of wartime rape victims in Kosovo.

The specific objective is to assess the DNA methylation and cortisol reactivity level of offspring whose mothers have been exposed to wartime sexual violence and developed PTSD and compare with offspring born by the mothers who have similar exposure but don't develop PTSD. To achieve the objective, we will conduct the Epigenome Wide Analysis Study (EWAS) and candidate gene analysis to exam whether DNA methylation differs among two target groups mentioned above and whether DNA methylation is associated with cortisol reactivity level. Biomarkers have great value for early screening, risk stratification and detection, as well as targeted interventions for the at-risk children and adolescent in the post-war setting.

Participating institutions and partnership

The project will build upon a multilateral research partnership between institutions KRCT in Kosovo, (Danish Institute against Torture (DIGNITY) in Denmark, which are supported by Copenhagen University Hospital and Disease Epigenetics Laboratory at Murdoch Children Research Institute (MCRI) in Australia. This project is fund by British embassy in Kosovo.

DIGNITY, under the direction of PI: Shr-Jie Sharlenna Wang (SJW), have more than 35 years of working on prevention of violence and rehabilitation of war/rape survivors and their families. The partner KRCT in Kosovo has substantial experience with child and women protection, trauma resilience, clinical and community interventions. The DIGNITY-Copenhagen University Hospital and MRCI team in Australia will be responsible for the study design and modification, coordination, blood samples collection, DNA extraction and data analysis, preparing the draft report and recommendation. In addition, Copenhagen University Hospital (Rigshospitalet), under management by Line Hjort (LH), will be responsible for the blood and DNA sample processing. MCRI team at Monash University, under the direction of Dr. Joanne Ryan (JR), will be responsible for the bioinformatic processing of the raw EWAS data and the associated analysis. Both LH and JR will work in close consultation with SJW and KRCT team, led by Dr, Feride Rushit and Dr. Sebahate Pacolli, on the project. KRCT team in Kosovo will oversee on-site activities including management coordination and quality assurance, secure permits, ethical approval and shipping clearance for specimen, coordinate with local authorities, recruit local staff, screen and interview study participants, arrange the lab material/facility for blood collection and storage, conducting monitoring and evaluation and preparing the draft report and recommendation etc. Four PIs at SJW, FR, LH, JR have different disciplinary backgrounds and expertise in relation trauma, PTSD epidemiology, brain research and epigenetic study. PIs will ensure the quality of publications and contribute to the planning of future preventive interventions to prevent transgenerational trauma due to the wartime sexual violence in the Balkan regions or other regions.

The reference group includes: Dr. Marie Høgh Thøgersen, Professor Jens Modvig, and Professor Ib Christian Bygbjerg.

Preliminary results conference:

Animation explaining results of study:.

Media report of this research project

Intergenerational effects of maternal post-traumatic stress disorder on offspring epigenetic patterns and cortisol levels | Epigenomics (futuremedicine.com)

https://www.royal.uk/speech-countess-wessex-kosovo (DIGNITY research)




The Countess attends a conference to discuss the findings of @DignityDK research, supported by @UKinKosovo, looking into how trauma caused by sexual violence in conflict can be passed between generations.


Today, the Kosovo Rehabilitation Center for Torture Victims and the British Embassy jointly organized a conference to present the preliminary results of transgeneration trauma research in Kosovo.

The research presented at today's conference, studies the impact of trauma on the offsprings of survivors of sexual violence during the war.

The research was conducted by KRCT, DIGNITY/Copenhagen, University Hospital / Copenhagen, Monash University / Australia and supported by the British Embassy in Kosovo.


If you have questions regarding this project you are welcome to contact:
Shr-Jie S. Wang:




KRCT in Kosovo

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