Smart proteins with all the bells and whistles

In Body
Tuesday, 17 November 2009 08:31

How chemical proteins can detect disease  

Hanging above Tilman Hackeng’s desk are the ‘ten steps to success’ by American chemist Richard Zare. Step six, ‘Never grow up’, seems to have been written specially for him. For Hackeng, chemical biology – and in particular chemical protein synthesis – is essentially a big box of molecular Lego that he can build with to his heart’s content. Hackeng, endowed professor of Chemical Biology at the Cardiovascular Research Institute Maastricht (CARIM), recently delivered his inaugural lecture. In it, he outlined the history of protein research and explained why chemical protein synthesis is so important for imaging biomarkers in the human body. Total chemical protein synthesis is a field of study that Hackeng first introduced in Europe at Maastricht University.


'Breathe out please!’

In Body
Thursday, 29 October 2009 08:40

Making a diagnosis on the basis of exhaled air

In the olden days, doctors would smell a patient’s exhaled air in order to ascertain whether he or she was suffering from hepatitis. At that time there would usually be an aroma of fish if the patient was suffering from this condition, due to the fact that the liver produces sulphur in patients suffering from hepatitis. Labradors can differentiate between patients suffering from lung cancer and healthy people on the basis of their exhaled air alone. Diagnosing COPD, asthma or chronic gastroenteritis on the basis of exhaled air is therefore something that stands to reason, after all, the words ‘blow into this bag please’ sound a little more pleasant than an ‘internal examination of the intestines, during which small fragments of tissue will be removed’. Researchers in Maastricht are close to completing a ‘blowing test’ such as this.


Away with ammonia!

In Body
Tuesday, 20 October 2009 08:46

Research into new treatment for liver failure

“You should apply for a Mosaic grant to finance your PhD,” someone said to Liliane Mpabanzi. “A what?” “A grant for ethnic minorities, to encourage them to choose an academic career.” No sooner said than done. On 26 October, Liliane Mpabanzi will receive €200,000 from the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) to conduct research into a new treatment for liver failure. “While I was studying Medicine, I actually had no idea of what it really meant to do research. Now I know that it nurtures your brain.”


Genes sensitive to stress

In Mind
Thursday, 08 October 2009 11:27

The relationship between sensitivity to stress and symptoms of psychosis

Sensitivity to stress plays a significant role in the development of psychosis. Additionally, stress-sensitivity appears to be genetically determined in part. These are two of the conclusions reached by Tineke Lataster in her thesis entitled ‘On the pathway from stress to psychosis', on the basis of which she is hoping to be awarded a doctorate in the Faculty of Health, Medicine and Life Sciences at Maastricht University on 14 October.


I spy with my little eye …

In Mind
Tuesday, 14 July 2009 11:32

The processing of sensory stimuli by autistic toddlers

Autism, Asperger syndrome and PDD-NOS are the three main forms of ‘autism spectrum disorders’ (ASD). While Asperger can only be diagnosed at a later age, the other types are usually diagnosed in children of around three or four. One of the key symptoms of ASD is that patients have difficulty recognising other people’s emotions, which explains why their reactions to these emotions can sometimes come off as strange. To understand how ASD arises, fundamental brain research is needed. Using EEG techniques to study toddlers, Maastricht University researchers have discovered that the visual brain even in toddlers with ASD responds differently to that of ‘healthy’ test participants.


Tackling plaque with new imaging techniques

In Body
Thursday, 23 April 2009 08:52

€35 million funding for three molecular medicine research projects

The Center for Translational Molecular Medicine (CTMM) has granted Maastricht University’s institute for cardiovascular disease (CARIM) funding worth €35 million for three research projects. One of these projects (Incoag) focuses on thrombosis, the second (Eminence) on vascular growth and the third (PARISk) on the behaviour of ‘plaques’, which are responsible for coronary and cerebral infarctions. In all three projects, the identification of processes taking place in the body plays prominent role. According to Professor Mat Daemen, new diagnostic techniques could drastically reduce the number of infarctions over the next few years.


Muscle fat and diabetes

In Body
Monday, 03 January 2011 08:58

Vici laureate Patrick Schrauwen

These days, adult-onset diabetes is no longer just reserved for the elderly. People develop Type 2 diabetes mellitus at increasingly young ages; this is the diabetes that is not congenital, but is brought on by an unhealthy lifestyle. Obesity plays a role, but so too, according to some scientists, does inactivity. Several researchers at Maastricht University are convinced that accumulated fat in the muscles plays an important part in the onset of Type 2 diabetes – and that you can prevent the fat in these muscles from having harmful consequences through regular physical exercise.


To smoke or not to smoke

In Body
Thursday, 20 November 2008 00:00

Does knowledge of their own illness help smokers quit?

“Sure, smoking is unhealthy, but we’re all going to die one day.” “Well, my grandfather was a smoker and lived to 80, so why should it be different for me?” These are just a few excuses used by smokers to justify their behaviour. For some people, quitting appears to be impossibly difficult. “But if I knew I had some kind of illness and it made sense to stop,” say a few, “I’d do it right away.” This statement has now been put to the test in Maastricht.


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