Prof. Dr. Arend Heerschap


Professor and head of Experimental biomedical MR research

Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Center

Arend Heerschap studied biochemistry at the Free University Amsterdam and obtained a PhD degree in (biophysical) chemistry at the University of Nijmegen on a high resolution NMR study of transfer RNA. He was MR scientist at Philips Research Laboratories, Eindhoven and Medical Systems, Best. In 1989 he moved to the Faculty of Medical Sciences at the University of Nijmegen and became staff member of the Department of Radiology. In 1998 he was appointed as professor in Biomedical Magnetic Resonance at this department. His main research interests are the application of Magnetic Resonance in oncology and in energy metabolism. He is a promoter of transfer of knowledge from basic biomedical research to clinical application. For these purposes he has initiated projects ranging from investigations on body fluids, tissue extracts and animal models up to examinations of human volunteers and patients. In these projects the versatile potentials of MR to study physiology and metabolism in intact organisms in a non-invasive and longitudinal way are exploited. Funding for these studies and investments in MR instrumentation were obtained from several national and international organizations, such as the Dutch Cancer Society (NKB), Dutch Health Council (NWO), Dutch Diabetes Fund (DFN), Princess Beatrix Fund, NIH, NCI, EU and private funds.Since 1991 more than 33 peer reviewed grants have been awarded to A. Heerschap. Most of the projects are performed in collaboration with local university and (inter) national groups. The work of Dr Heerschap has resulted in a large number of publications in SCI referred journals (see below) and he has (co-)supervised 18 PhD students to a doctorate degree. He has served in local and national scientific committees and in several committees of the ISMRM. Currently he is chair-elect of the Cancer study group of the ISMRM. He is member of the executive board of the ESMRMB, member of the editorial board of MAGMA and a regular reviewer for several journals in the field of biomedical MR.

"In 2006-2007 it was Prof George Padberg from the Neurology department of our Institution who introduced me into FSHD as a disease with far-reaching consequences for the affected patients. His involvement with his patients and his enthusiasm to improve the diagnostics and treatment of these patients also stimulated me to set up an MR research program to improve the diagnostics and understanding of the disease. First we developed a new method to image fat infiltration in muscles of patients, which is one of the hallmarks in the progression of the disease (Kan et al; 2009). We then used this new method to characterize fat infiltration in a number of FSHD patients and discovered that energy metabolism in fat infiltrated muscles was compromised. (Kan et al; 2010). Our research then culminated in the discovery that fat infiltration in FSHD followed a specific pattern that is unique for the disease, i.e. different from Duchenne and other dystrophies. Our observations indicated that in an individual affected muscle, fat accumulation is initiated at the distal end and once started it progresses relatively fast to the other (proximal) end of the muscle (Janssen et al, 2014). Interestingly, this is in agreement with a cascade of toxic DUX4 expression progressing as a wave through the muscle. We continued our studies together with Prof. Baziel van Engelen and studied the effect of life-style intervention in FSHD progression and observed that an active life-style de-accelerated the progression of fat infiltration, although not reversing it (Janssen et al; 2010).

"Subsequently we further compared our MR data on fat infiltration with that of muscle strength and found that fat infiltrated muscles are weaker than anticipated from their fat fractions suggesting an intrinsic effect of the disease on muscles independent from the fat accumulation (Marra et al. 2018), in agreement with our earlier observation the energy metabolism in muscles is affected.

"Our establishment of a well-structured MRI tool to diagnose FSHD patients has been employed by our clinical colleagues to diagnose a large cohort of FSHD patients as a database for follow-up studies (Mul et al; 2017)."

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