Medical Delta is a network of life sciences, health and technology organisations in the region Leiden-Delft-Rotterdam. It acts as a catalyst for health innovation and cooperation. So-called ‘Medical Delta professors’ are appointed at multiple academic institutions that cooperate in the Medical Delta region.
Metabolomics and epidemiology
Professor Thomas Hankemeier (metabolomics, Leiden University) has been appointed at Erasmus MC, and Professor Cock van Duijn (epidemiology, Erasmus MC) has been appointed at Leiden University.
Cock van Duijn explains the advantages of this structure: “Thomas Hankemeier can measure metabolites on a large scale across a broad range of concentrations in his metabolomics facility. We are now measuring hundreds of substances in the blood of large groups of participants in epidemiological research. We are comparing people, who, based on their genetic profile, we know will go on to develop Alzheimer’s disease later in life. This allows us to identify the markers that predict the disease. They are the black ravens, or the unlucky ones. But we are perhaps even more interested in the white ravens: the group of people who are fortunate enough to have inherited a small number of variants related to the diseases from their parents. It is their metabolites that point the way towards the development of drugs.”
“These are the kind of moments when you think: this is too good to be true. For me, it happened at a meeting with Thomas Hankemeier and Rick Grobbee, from the Julius Centre in Utrecht, who is conducting research into cardiovascular diseases. Thomas was telling me about induced stem cells and his dream of converting them into cells that cover blood vessels. The idea is to create a ‘model organism on a chip’. This is how the idea of creating induced stem cells came about, converting them into brain cells and thereby creating a model of the brain on a chip. We now have various grants to translate the blood cells from ‘white ravens’ and ‘black ravens’ into a model of their brains on a chip. This will enable us to conduct large-scale research into what goes wrong in the brain of a black raven and what is so good about the metabolism in the brain of a white raven.”
More information about the seven new professors can be found in the Medical Delta brochure.