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Maaike Straat, MD

Overweight and obesity in modern western society are reaching epidemic proportions, thereby increasing the prevalence of a disadvantageous metabolic phenotype, including insulin resistance and dyslipidemia. Furthermore certain populations, for example South Asians, narcolepsy patients and shift workers, are even more at risk to develop metabolic disturbances. Treatment strategies focusing on reduction of energy intake or increasing physical activity are not effective enough in the long term. Therefore new treatment options to combat obesity and metabolic diseases are needed.

Brown adipose tissue (BAT) is a promising new therapeutic target. BAT is involved in non-shivering thermogenesis. Upon sympathetic activation by cold BAT combusts glucose and fatty acids to produce heat, by uncoupling mitochondrial respiration from adenosine triphosphate (ATP) production. This results in an increase in energy expenditure and an improvement in glucose and lipid metabolism.

By performing clinical intervention studies the goals of my research project are to further unravel the role of BAT in whole body metabolism in humans, to reveal the role of BAT in people at risk for a disadvantageous metabolic phenotype, to identify novel pharmacological strategies to activate and/or recruit BAT in humans, and to assess new strategies to visualize and quantify BAT.