Prof Dr Wouter van Marken Lichtenbelt (W.D.)

Wouter van Marken Lichtenbelt is leader of the research group Thermophysiology & Metabolism Maastricht University (TherMU). 

Main emphasis is on individual differences in whole body physiology and the underlying mechanisms on cellular level, and on putting the scientific knowledge into practice. 

The fundamental aspect of the research line is the effect of environmental temperatures as we encounter in daily life on physiology and behavior. Wouter was the first to put non-shivering thermogenesis in adults back on the research agenda in the early 2000s. In follow-up studies, he was among the first that identified functional brown adipose tissue in adult humans. Under his supervision, an extended series of experiments have been carried out. He showed that in adult humans brown fat is a flexible tissue that can be activated and recruited by cold acclimation, weight loss, by pharmacological agents such as bile acids, and by food. This part of the research bridges the gap between whole body human metabolic studies and recent developments on the regulation of fat and muscle tissue, the recruitment of brown adipose tissue, and mitochondrial function in relation to the metabolic syndrome. Interestingly, recent studies on mild heat exposure and acclimation have also shown beneficial effects on metabolic and cardiovascular health.


Besides basal physiological research, current research puts emphasis on how daily environmental conditions (indoor climate, light) relate to thermal comfort, thermal behavior, long-term health and prevention of the metabolic syndrome (obesitas, type 2 diabetes and related cardiovascular diseases). 

His group searches for an optimal mix of different lifestyles and environmental factors to create a healthy sustainable indoor environment.