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Focus on EAS Innsbruck 2016: Introducing the faculty - Plenary speaker Jörg Heeren

Wednesday 16 December 2015   (0 Comments)
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A forward-looking scientific Programme to excite, inspire and inform!

The EAS 2016 Scientific Committee has created a programme featuring ground-breaking speakers in their respective fields. EAS 2016 Innsbruck welcomes a distinguished international faculty to share their forward-looking perspectives on the latest developments in basic research and clinical practice in atherosclerosis and cardiovascular disease. You can find details of the Plenary and Workshop sessions now on the Congress website,

Abstract submission is now open. Submit your abstract by January 11, 2016 for the opportunity to present your findings at this prestigious international Congress.

Here, in a series of newsletters, we introduce members of the EAS 2016 Innsbruck faculty.

Plenary session 2, Tuesday, May 31, 2016: Lipid biology, new insights

Jörg Heeren, Germany: Adipose tissue browning and metabolic health

Jörg Heeren is Professor at the Institute for Biochemistry and Molecular Cell Biology, University Medical Center Hamburg‐Eppendorf, Germany. His research interests focus on the molecular mechanisms underlying abnormalities in lipid and lipoprotein metabolism, which are associated with the development of chronic inflammatory disorders such as atherosclerosis and type 2 diabetes. Professor Heeren elucidated the intracellular sorting of lipoprotein components, which provided a new intracellular link between the metabolism of triglyceride‐rich lipoproteins and high-density lipoprotein cholesterol. More recently, he has used state of the art nanoparticle‐based metabolic imaging to establish a key role for the brown adipose tissue in the regulation of plasma triglyceride levels.   

Brown adipose tissue (BAT) is a metabolically highly active organ, which lowers plasma levels of atherogenic triglyceride-rich lipoproteins and thereby protects against the development of atherosclerosis. The development of the inducible brown adipocytes, or ‘beige/bright cells’, is termed ‘browning’. In infants, BAT accounts for about 5% of total body mass, and even in adults it appears that there are residual reserves in the shoulders and neck, although the total number of brown adipocytes in the body varies extensively.

Studies have shown that BAT activity is increased when mice are overfed, thus protecting them from obesity. Furthermore, in humans, an increase in BAT was associated with a lower body weight. Additional studies in mice have shown that short-term exposure to cold increases BAT activity, accelerating plasma clearance of triglycerides, a process dependent on local lipoprotein lipase activity. In pathophysiological settings, cold exposure corrected hyperlipidaemia and improved the effects of insulin resistance. Thus, while an unhealthy diet and sedentary lifestyle are the two chief drivers of the obesity epidemic, lack of exposure to temperature variation could be a subtle contributor. Taken together, these findings imply that BAT activity controls vascular lipoprotein homeostasis by increasing the turnover of triglyceride-rich lipoproteins and uptake into BAT, suggesting therapeutic potential for the management of elevated triglycerides, as well as in obesity. Determining which genes control the development of white and brown adipose tissue represents the first step in this novel therapeutic approach. 


Berbée JF, Boon MR, Khedoe PP, Bartelt A, Schlein C, Worthmann A, Kooijman S, Hoeke G, Mol IM, John C, Jung C, Vazirpanah N, Brouwers LP, Gordts PL, Esko JD, Hiemstra PS, Havekes LM, Scheja L, Heeren J, Rensen PC. Brown fat activation reduces hypercholesterolaemia and protects from atherosclerosis development. Nat Commun 2015;6:6356.

Dijk W, Heine M, Vergnes L, Boon MR, Schaart G, Hesselink MK, Reue K, van Marken Lichtenbelt WD, Olivecrona G, Rensen PC, Heeren J, Kersten S. ANGPTL4 mediates shuttling of lipid fuel to brown adipose tissue during sustained cold exposure. Elife 2015 Oct 17;4. [Epub ahead of print]

Hoffmann LS, Etzrodt J, Willkomm L, Sanyal A, Scheja L, Fischer AW, Stasch JP, Bloch W, Friebe A, Heeren J, Pfeifer A. Stimulation of soluble guanylyl cyclase protects against obesity by recruiting brown adipose tissue. Nat Commun 2015;6:7235.

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