Ron Heeren, Distinguished Professor and Limburg co-chair of the Maastricht Multimodal Molecular Imaging Institute, has devoted his career to innovations in mass spectrometry and their applications to other disciplines.
About his current research direction, he says:
"A comprehensive understanding of molecular patterns of health and disease is needed to pave the way for personalised medicine and tissue regeneration. New physical technology developments in mass spectrometry based chemical microscopes have now firmly established themselves in translational research. They target biomedical tissue analysis in various diseases as well as other chemically complex surfaces. In concert they elucidate the way in which local environments can influence molecular signalling pathways on various scales, from molecule to man.
The integration of this pathway information in a surgical setting is imminent, but innovations that push the boundaries of the technology and its application are still needed. These developments require a strong interdisciplinary approach where physicists, chemists, biologists and clinicians come together to tackle the complexity of life. In particular, researchers investigate comprehensive and isolated biomolecular molecular patterns of health and disease. This is a key element needed to pave the way for personalised medicine and tissue regeneration.
One barrier to predictive, personalised medicine is the lack of a comprehensive molecular understanding at the tissue level. As we grasp the astonishing complexity of biological systems (whether single cells or whole organisms), it becomes more and more evident that within this complexity lies the information needed to provide insight in the origin, progression and treatment of various diseases.
The best way to capture disease complexity is to chart and connect multilevel molecular information within a tissue using mass spectrometry based molecular microscopy. This enables translation of high end molecular imaging technologies to the clinical practice in pathology and surgery."
Prof. Heeren’s research interests are the fundamental studies of the energetics of macromolecular systems, conformational studies of non-covalently bound protein complexes, translational imaging research, high-throughput bioinformatics and the development and validation of new mass spectrometry based proteomic imaging techniques for the life sciences.
Prof. Heeren has supervised more than 60 PhD students and postdoctoral fellows, many of whom have received prestigious awards and are now leading their own labs or hold key positions in industry. Currently, he supervises masters and PhD students at UM, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam and the University of Amsterdam.
Prof. Heeren is the elected treasurer and executive board member of the international mass spectrometry foundation and serves on various editorial boards of peer-reviewed journals. His publication record encompasses an excess of 300 peer-reviewed publications and his H-index is 57 (Google scholar, August 2020).
This includes science policy, science community-building and editorial activities
DThe multimillion-euro investment in the LINK programme by the Province of Limburg, Maastricht University (UM) and Maastricht UMC+ (MUMC+) has achieved its targets. And the LINK programme is to have a sequel: UM and MUMC+ will be investing eight million euros in MERLN and M4i in the coming years to give an extra boost to regenerative medicine and imaging.