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Prof Dr Patrick Schrauwen

Role: Principal investigator / Chair of EASD Academy

Institute: Maastricht University, Department of Nutrition and Movement Sciences, Maastricht, The Netherlands

Research & Interests: Dr Schrauwen focuses on human translational research in the field of type 2 diabetes mellitus, with a special emphasis on insulin resistance, lipotoxicity, mitochondrial dysfunction, and human energy metabolism. His research is characterized as highly translational. In his multidisciplinary team, Dr Schrauwen combines molecular techniques and state-of-the-art imaging technology with human clinical intervention trials.

Dr Schrauwen has made key contributions to the study of the relationship between mitochondrial function and ectopic fat storage in muscle and insulin resistance. He was one of the first to show that mitochondrial function is compromised not only in patients with overt type 2 diabetes but also in subjects with pre-diabetes. Subsequently, Dr Schrauwen investigated whether mitochondrial function could be considered a target for the prevention or treatment of diabetes. Dr Schrauwen was also the first to show that the polyphenolic compound resveratrol is able to increase mitochondrial function and improve metabolic health in obese humans but not in type 2 diabetes patients. Dr. Schrauwen further examined if and how interfering with mitochondrial function affects intramyocellular lipid accumulation and insulin sensitivity. Furthermore, Dr Schrauwen demonstrated that mitochondrial function and lipid content in skeletal muscle displays clear 24h rhythmicity in humans and that circadian misalignment leads to muscle insulin resistance in humans. Recently, he demonstrated that such 24h rhythmicity is severely blunted in pre-diabetes volunteers.

The second research line of Dr Schrauwen focuses on understanding the impact of cold exposure on human energy metabolism, including the role of brown adipose tissue (BAT) and muscle. He was one of the first to show that BAT can be detected in most humans upon acute cold exposure. In the last 5 years, he showed that the bile-acid CDCA activates BAT and elevates energy expenditure in humans, whereas creatine is unable to affect BAT in humans. Dr Schrauwen demonstrated that 10 days of cold acclimation had very marked effects on skeletal muscle insulin sensitivity in type 2 diabetes patients in a BAT-independent manner. Thus, cold-exposure activated GLUT4 translocation in skeletal muscle via a yet unknown molecular pathway.