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Judith Sluimer

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Prof. Dr. Judith Sluimer

Professor, Principle Investigator Experimental Vascular Pathology group

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Prof. Dr. Judith Sluimer works in Maastricht University Medical Center since 2010. Her chair is focussed on cardiovascular pathophysiology, specifically the pathogenesis of atherosclerosis and vascular ageing. Judith investigates the molecular mechanisms underlying the responses of macrophages and mesenchymal cells in vascular physiology and pathology to cellular stress (hypoxia, autophagy, lipids), and resulting changes in cellular heterogeneity or identity, and intercellular communication.

She combines experimental in vivo and in vitro models with single cell sequencing, studies involving human subjects and tissue samples, and non-invasive imaging of vulnerable plaques. In addition to research, teaching and mentoring, she is chair of the Careermanagement committee (“UHD-cie”) of the faculty health medicine and life sciences, member of the board of the Division Blood in the cardiovascular research institute Maastricht (CARIM), and the Dutch Endothelial cell Biology society (DEBS), treasurer of the European Vascular Biology organization (EVBO), and associate editor for Cardiovascular Research.

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The overarching goal and vision of Prof. Sluimer’s research program is to revert atherosclerotic plaque destabilization and ensuing clinical events by elucidating the role of cellular players and metabolic processes in cellular function, heterogeneity and communication in vascular physiology and pathology. Her work initially focussed on the function and imaging potential of hypoxia, oxygen sensors, angiogenesis and autophagy in atherosclerosis (funded by NWO-VENI, Aspasia, Dutch Heart Foundation, CTMM, CARIM). Judith demonstrated a causal role of plaque hypoxia in atherogenesis  during her PhD project (2008), and its application for human plaque imaging. A post-doc with Prof. Ira Tabas (Columbia University, NYC, USA, 2008-2009) furthered her expertise in macrophage apoptosis, efferocytosis and autophagy (funded by NWO Rubicon, UM Kootstra talent fellowship and the international atherosclerosis society (IAS). Next, she established an intriguing link between oxygen sensors and cholesterol homeostasis, showing her ability to develop new concepts and lead breakthrough science. Work of her team has been published in high impact journals such as Eur. Heart J., JACC, Cell metabolism, Circ research, and CV Research. She chaired the 2019 ESM-EVBO conference  in Maastricht. Six PhD-students have successfully acquired their PhD degree under her supervision, with supervision of 6 PhD students still ongoing in Maastricht and Edinburgh. Judith’s group benefits from interdisciplinary expertise, a crucial condition for innovative science, through: 1) the Leducq transatlantic network of excellence on autophagy (2015; 3% success rate), and 2) her honorary scientist position at University of Edinburgh since 2016, where she is studying ncRNAs in vascular biology. These interactions have led to an exciting new research line on mesenchymal cell biology, and heterogeneity in vascular ageing and in atherogenesis (VIDI 2018). Her chair “Cardiovascular Pathophysiology” (2020) will identify molecular regulators of cellular response to stress, and subsequent changes in vascular function, cell heterogeneity and identity, and cell-cell communication. These insights are expected to yield new targets to intervene in cardiovascular dysfunction

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