Patrick Rensen, PhD

Patrick Rensen (1969) is Professor of Metabolic Aspects of Vascular Disease since 2012. He is an internationally acclaimed expert on lipid and lipoprotein metabolism and atherosclerosis, and is currently leading the way in the emerging field of brown adipose tissue in cardiometabolic health. He is the current chairman of the European Lipoprotein Club (ELC).

He obtained his MSc and PhD degrees cum laude, is laureate of the Postdoc Award (1999) and Established Investigator Award (2009) from the Dutch Heart Foundation, a VIDI grant from NWO, the Dutch Vascular Medicine Award 2012 from the Dutch Society of Vascular Medicine, the Research Prize 2013 from the Dutch Pharmacological Society , and Lilly Research Program Award 2015 and 2018. In addition, he is the first non-Nordic to receive the Nikkilä Award of the Scandinavian Society for Atherosclerosis Research 2016, and received the Prof. dr. G.J. Tammeling Prize 2015-2016 for his educational activities at LUMC. He received more than 50 research grants and has published nearly 250 papers, including Cell Metab, Cell Rep, EMBO Mol Med, Gut, Nat Commun, Nat Med, PNAS, and Sci Transl Med, and has a H-factor of 43.

His research mainly focuses on the role of the brain in lipid and glucose metabolism, and their consequences for obesity, type 2 diabetes (T2D) and cardiovascular disease (CVD), initially funded by the Dutch Heart Foundation and Dutch Diabetes Foundation. In the beginning of this millennium, brown adipose tissue (BAT) was discovered to be present and functional in adult humans and importantly contributes to energy expenditure by combusting high amounts of glucose and triglycerides into heat. Since BAT is physiologically activated by sympathetic outflow from the hypothalamus in the brain, and has great promise as a therapeutic target for obesity, T2D and CVD, BAT became a major focus within this ‘brain-metabolism-T2D-CVD’ research line since 2010. Within this research line, he combines pre-clinical studies in (unique humanized) animals with clinical (intervention) studies in patients.

He showed that South Asians who are particularly prone to develop T2D, have low BAT activity correlating with decreased energy expenditure (Lancet Diabetes Endocrinol 2014), consistent with the hypothesis that low BAT activity may cause an adverse metabolic phenotype. Funded by ‘CardioVascular Research Netherlands’ (consortia CVON-GENIUS and CVON-ENERGISE), his research group investigates novel genetic targets that modulate BAT, both via the brain (e.g., MC4R, GLP-1R, ADRB3) and directly (e.g., AMPK, BMP7R, CB1R, USF1, GPR120), and showed that BAT activation improves dyslipidemia, glucose tolerance, T2D and atherosclerosis (e.g. Diabetes 2014; FASEB J 2014; J Lipid Res 2015; Nat Commun 2015; Circ Res 2016; Sci Transl Med 2016; Nat Com 2017; EMBO Mol Med 2018). Recent studies showed that BAT is under control of the biological clock (PNAS USA 2015; Cell Rep 2018). His group currently also investigate the role of the immune system (Endocrine Rev 2017) and microbiota (Gut 2018) in BAT function, and attempts to discover biomarkers for BAT activity (Metabolomics 2017), by combining intervention studies with the large Netherlands Epidemiology of Obesity (NEO) cohort, funded by the GENIUS-ENERGISE consortium. His group has just initiated BAT-targeted pharmacological intervention studies in humans (Diabetologia 2018).

Selected publications:

1. Van den Berg R & Kooijman S et al: A diurnal rhythm in brown adipose tissue causes rapid clearance and combustion of plasma lipid at wakening. Cell Rep 2018, 22: 3521-3533.
2. Schilperoort M: The GPR120 agonist TUG-891 promotes metabolic health by stimulating mitochondrial respiration in brown fat. EMBO Mol Med 2018, 10: e8047.
3. Li Z: Butyrate reduces appetite and activates brown adipose tissue via the gut-brain neural circuit. Gut 2018, 67: 1269-1279.
4. Bartelt A & Berbée JFP: Thermogenic adipocytes promote HDL turnover and reverse cholesterol transport. Nature Commun 2017, 8: 15010.
5. Van den Berg S: Immune modulation of brown(ing) adipose tissue in obesity. Endocrine Rev 2017, 38: 46-68.
6. Laurila PP et al: USF1 deficiency activates brown adipose tissue and improves cardiometabolic health. Science Transl Med 2016, 8: 323ra13.
7. Kooijman S et al: Prolonged daily light exposure increases body fat mas through attenuation of brown adipose tissue activity. PNAS USA 2015, 112: 6748-6753.
8. Berbée JFP et al: Brown fat activation reduces hypercholesterolemia and protects from atherosclerosis development. Nature Commun 2015, 6: 6356.
9. Bakker LEH & Boon MR et al: Brown adipose tissue volume in healthy lean south Asian adults compared with white Caucasians: a prospective, case-controlled observational study. Lancet Diabetes Endocrinol 2014, 2: 210-217.
10. Rensen PCN et al: Selective liver targeting of antivirals by recombinant chylomicrons. Nature Med 1995, 1: 221-225.


Past team members:
• Rosa van den Berg (PhD defence 2017-10: Greased lighting: implications of circadian lipid metabolism for cardiometabolic health)
• Andrea van Dam (PhD defence 2017-10: Inflamed fat: immune modulation of adipose tissue and lipid metabolism)
• Geerte Hoeke (PhD defence 2018-05: A fatty battle: towards identification of novel genetic targets to comBAT cardiometabolic diseases)
• Lauren Tambyrajah (PhD studentship terminated 2018-02)