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Maastricht University

Introduction

The Nutrition and Toxicology Research Institute Maastricht (NUTRIM) is an interfaculty research institute of the Faculties of Health Sciences and Medicine of Maastricht University (UM) in co-operation with the University Hospital Maastricht (azM). Within NUTRIM 15 biomedical, clinical, and behavioural-science departments co-operate in the implementation of scientific research projects in the fields of nutrition and toxicology and in the education of PhD-students.

NUTRIM participates in the Graduate School VLAG (Food Technology, Agrobiotechnology, Nutrition and Health Sciences) www.wau.nl/vlag, accredited by the Royal Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW). Since 2003 NUTRIM has participated in the Wageningen Centre for Food Sciences (WCFS) www.wcfs.nl, one of four Leading Technological Institutes established on the initiative of, and with financial support from, the Dutch Government. WCFS is an alliance of research and food industry partners to carry out strategic and non-competitive fundamental research regarding the mechanisms involved in food functionality.

NUTRIM Staff

Approximately 200 scientific staff participate within NUTRIM, of which approximately 90 are PhD-students.
The Scientific Director is Prof. Dr. W.H.M. Saris, Professor of Human Nutrition, Department of Human Biology. Tel.: 043-3881743, W.Saris@HB.unimaas.nl

NUTRIM Research

The research within NUTRIM is divided into four divisions with several research lines:

Division I Nutrition and metabolism

Division Head: Prof. R.P. Mensink, Professor of Molecular Nutrition with emphasis on lipid metabolism,
Tel.: +31-43-3881308, R.Mensink@HB.unimaas.nl

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Division I Research Interests

Energy metabolism, substrate utilization and nutrient requirements.
Research within this domain is focused on energy and substrate metabolism, dietary requirements and food intake of man in relation to characteristics like age, body composition, growth, pregnancy, physical activity and exercise, and genetic background. Furthermore, studies are performed on the functional consequences of changes in dietary intake and/or energy expenditure in healthy subjects and patients.

Physiological aspects of the intermediary metabolism.
Substrate fluxes and cross talk between organs may be disturbed by metabolic stress. The role of dietary interventions, physical training, and medication on these processes and on metabolism are studied in relation with syndromes like diabetes mellitus, obesity, and hyperlipidaemia. In another integrated line of research, special attention is given to metabolic pathways and function of the skeletal muscle.

Cellular responses in relation to metabolic stress syndromes
Research within this domain tries to unravel at the cellular and molecular level the role of nutritive and non-nutritive components in the diet on syndromes related to metabolic stress and chronic inflammation. The experiments - which integrate the expertise in the field of genomics with that in the field of proteomics - are not only carried out with various cells and cell lines, but also with (transgenic) animals and human volunteers.Back to Top

Division II Clinical aspects of nutrition

Division Head: Prof. RJ Brummer, Professor of Medical Nutrition and Clinical Dietetics, University Hospital,
Tel.: +31-43-3877188, rj.brummer@intmed.unimaas.nl

Division II Research Interests

Chronic diseases and nutritional intervention.
Clinical intervention research is performed in which functional end points are applied as gold standards for measuring effects. There is a special focus on muscle metabolism and function. Furthermore, fundamental aspects are studied in order derive more precise definitions of the individual intermediary phases in a hypothesis.

Defence mechanism and metabolism.
Research is performed into the regulation and nature of responses of the human organism to various endogenous factors, including disease, trauma and malnutrition. The research also studies factors, which condition an adequate defence against endogenous factors. An important supplementary aspect is the intermediary metabolism (regarding amino acids and proteins)

Metabolism and motility in intestinal diseases.
Within this domain, research is performed regarding intestinal disorders and systemic responses. The epidemiology, metabolism and function of the intestine in connection with chronic inflammation, compromised gut, surgical trauma as well as bacterial flora are examples of important research subjects.

Metabolic aspects of cancer.
Clinical and more fundamental research is carried out into the impact of cancer on the metabolism, in particular with respect to the impact on the defence mechanism. The research is linked with the 'Oncology' research line of the University Hospital Maastricht.
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Division III Epidemiological and behavioural-science nutrition research

Division Head: Prof. Dr. P.A. van den Brandt, Professor of Epidemiology,
Tel.: +31-43-3882374, PA.vandenBrandt@EPID.unimaas.nl

Division III Research Interests

Nutritional epidemiology
Relationships between nutrition and morbidity and mortality in the population are pre-eminently suited subjects for an epidemiological approach. Research is performed on the level of nutrients, foods and nutritional patterns. Prospective cohort and case-control studies as well as intervention trials regarding the fields of cancer, and atopy in particular are principal topics in this research domain. The role of food supplements and bio-active compounds in the aetiology and in the prognosis of diseases are also investigated.

Behavioural-science nutrition research
Adequate preventive measures and interventions at a population level require not only the identification of groups which run a clearly higher risk of suffering health damages, but also involve an insight into the prevalence and determinants of risky behaviour in the entire population. An important part of this research is focused on registering nutritional patterns. With respect to food intake regulation, psycho-biological research is performed in the context of obesity and extreme environmental circumstances. The development and validation of measuring methods as well as evaluation of interventions in risky eating behaviours are also investigated.
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Division IV Health hazards in living environments and nutrition

Division Head: Prof. F.J. van Schooten,
Professor of Genetic Toxicology,
Tel.: +31-43-3881100, F.vanSchooten@GRAT.unimaas.nl

Division IV Research Interests

The main focus of research in Division IV concerns the relationship between chronic degenerative diseases, and exposure to factors present in either food or environmental compartments. Molecular markers for exposure to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, aromatic amines and oxidative stress are developed. Also relevant markers for early biological effects in particular groups of exposed subjects and patients that suffer from oxidative stress are sought.
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A recent major focal point is to identify molecular pathways through gene expression profiling in relation to exposures and cancer of the colon and atherosclerosis, and risk assessment. The effectiveness of anti-carcinogenic factors as present in food (such as vegetables) in preventing the onset of carcinogenic events is evaluated. Collaboration with the Maastricht Genome Centre facilitates this research. Genetic variants are studied in genes involved in activation and deactivation of xenobiotic compounds and related to DNA damage and repair, with the purpose to identify those with intrinsic enhanced susceptibility.

Recently, techniques are developed to set up high-throughput analysis of multiple polymorphisms that can be applied in large epidemiological studies. Since reactive oxygen species are involved in onset and progression of several chronic diseases (like COPD, diabetes and hepatic diseases), protection with antioxidants (thiols and polyphenols) is investigated. Our research aims for defining specific clinical action of antioxidants by characterising the enzymatic and non-enzymatic antioxidant network in various diseases. Free radical species are directly identified in aqueous solutions and cell suspensions using electron spin resonance (ESR) spectrometry. Also with this technique, free radical mediated drug toxicity (e.g. doxorubicin-induced cardiotoxicity) and pro/antioxidant capacity of food components are evaluated.
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Understanding the common genetic disturbances that occur in the pathways of disease progression facilitates mechanism based preventive strategies and provides tools for assessing the efficacy of dietary interventions. Recently, sophisticated telemetry techniques to measure the modifying effect of antioxidants on heart function and blood pressure in laboratory animals have been installed. Furthermore, human cell culture systems as well as experiments with human volunteers are used to evaluate mechanistic events under controlled conditions.

Additionally, expertise in the field health risk assessment is applied to study risk factors in relation to food and environment. Within this area empirical research is performed on risk perception and risk communication.

Research Lines

  • Health hazards in living environments
  • Health hazards in nutrition

For more information:
www.nutrim.unimaas.nl
Phone: +31-43-3882117
E-mail: Y.Sondeijker@NUTRIM.unimaas.nl

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