Photographer:Fotograaf: Photo: Sacha Ruland
Arteriosclerosis and obesity. It's one of the seven topics that will be presented by young researchers of Maastricht University tomorrow during the 36th foundation day of Maastricht University.
Dr. Kristiaan Wouters (1981, Hasselt), biomedical researcher at the Faculty of Health, Medicine and Life Sciences
How do you prepare yourself?
“I firstly thought about how I could present my story so that it would be understood. Which scientific terms to leave and which to paraphrase. I want the audience to understand what I am saying and at the same time have some depth. The difficult thing about my subject is that it is all about cells and therefore – unlike politics or law – it is far from people’s everyday life.”
What is so exciting about your subject?
“In the first instance, obesity is a socially relevant problem. People have become fatter over the last few years and it does not look as if this trend is going to stop soon. Not in the Netherlands either, even though the percentages differ considerably per province. Limburg is in a precarious category; in 2010 it appeared that 12 to 15 per cent of the Limburg population were obese. These are also the very people who have a higher than average chance of suffering from cardiovascular diseases. One of the causes is chronic inflammation of the fatty tissue. What exactly happens in the cell is not clear. I am studying the hypothesis that this kind of inflammation occurs because of macrophages. These are white blood cells that normally remove any remainders of cells in the body and help combat infections. However, there are indications that these cells behave differently when fatty tissue becomes more fatty. They appear to put on ‘the cloak’ of a so-called dendrite cell, a powerful specimen that can indeed create inflammation, not just in fatty tissue but also in the lining of the artery. I am trying to decipher whether macrophages change shape and if so, whether this leads to more cardiovascular diseases.”
Researcher in heart and soul?
“Yes, I think so. At any rate I go home in a good mood when the results are good and sleep badly when the research does not go according to plan. My motivation is curiosity. I want to know how things are.”