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  4. Ronald Ouwerkerk, Ph.D.

Ronald Ouwerkerk, Ph.D.

Scientific Focus Areas: Biomedical Engineering and Biophysics, Chemical Biology

Professional Experience

  • Ph.D., Hematology Department, School of Medicine, State University Utrecht, the Netherlands, 1989
  • M.S., Department of Chemistry, State University Utrecht, the Netherlands, 1986
  • B.S., Department of Chemistry, State University Utrecht, the Netherlands, 1984

Research Goal

We hope to learn how metabolic and physiological changes are caused by obesity.

Current Research

I use magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS) to study how metabolic changes in humans may lead to a set of increased risk factors. These risk factors are referred to collectively as metabolic syndrome, and they can lead to cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. We measure visceral fat and the fat content of the heart, liver, and various muscle types and correlate these measurements with metabolic and physiological markers, including body mass index, cardiac function, insulin resistance, and blood lipid profiles. By scanning a large and diverse number of subjects, we hope to separate differences in fat metabolism related to race, ethnicity, age, and gender from the underlying common sequence of events that lead to cardiovascular problems or metabolic abnormalities. We augment this effort by also studying metabolites in the liver and muscle of subjects with known abnormalities associated with fat metabolism such as lipodystrophy, or the inability to generate fatty tissue.

Applying our Research

The knowledge gained from our research may tell us about possible early warning signs that may help us save patients before obesity causes irreparable damage.

Need for Further Study

The metabolic switches in the pancreas govern the way dietary fat and sugar intake is handled and how energy reserves are stored in body fat or the liver. Noninvasive study of the metabolic changes in the liver and pancreas in response to acute or long-term changes in dietary intake may help us understand how this works and how this mechanism is changed with obesity.

Select Publications

Water suppression in the human brain with hypergeometric RF pulses for single-voxel and multi-voxel MR spectroscopy.
Chan KL, Ouwerkerk R, Barker PB.
Magn Reson Med (2018 Oct) 80:1298-1306. Abstract/Full Text
Metreleptin-mediated improvements in insulin sensitivity are independent of food intake in humans with lipodystrophy.
Brown RJ, Valencia A, Startzell M, Cochran E, Walter PJ, Garraffo HM, Cai H, Gharib AM, Ouwerkerk R, Courville AB, Bernstein S, Brychta RJ, Chen KY, Walter M, Auh S, Gorden P.
J Clin Invest (2018 Aug 1) 128:3504-3516. Abstract/Full Text
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Research in Plain Language

I use MRI to measure how fat is burned or stored in the hearts, livers, muscles, and belly fat of lean and overweight humans to learn how obesity may lead to disease. Obese humans can develop a number of health problems, including high blood pressure and diabetes, that can ultimately lead to heart disease. We need to find out how these changes occur and what possible early warning signs we should focus on to save people before obesity causes irreparable damage. There are many factors, such as race gender and age, that make it hard to find a common mechanism. For that reason, we study a large and diverse group of lean and obese subjects and also some subjects with known metabolic diseases or habits that affect fat metabolism.