Universiteit Leiden

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Ko Willems van Dijk

Professor Genetics and system biology of metabolic syndrome

Prof.dr.ir. J.A.P. Willems van Dijk
+31 71 518 9470

Ko Willems van Dijk is professor at the departments of Human Genetics and Medicine, division Endocrinology. He is chairman of the scientific advisory committee of the department of Human Genetics and executive board member of the Netherlands Epidemiology of Obesity study.

More information about Ko Willems van Dijk

Genetics and systems biology of the metabolic syndrome

Overweight and obesity are increasing dramatically in the Netherlands. Affected individuals have a dramatically increased risk for the development of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and specific types of cancer. These diseases are associated with significant morbidity and mortality and come with a high cost to society. Overweight is often associated with risk factors such as high blood pressure and high blood sugar and then collectively termed the metabolic syndrome,  which further amplifies the disease risk. Both genetics and the environment (diet and life style) determine the development of metabolic syndrome and disease risk. Metabolic syndrome is a disease that affects many biological systems simultaneously. To gain insight in the mechanisms, prevention and treatment of the metabolic syndrome and associated disease, a systems biology approach is required. 

Academic career

Ko Willems van Dijk received his education to an engineering degree in Molecular Sciences and Biotechnology (1988) from The Wageningen University en Research (WUR) in Wageningen, The Netherlands. He did his Phd research at the department of Pathology of the University of Washington in Seattle, USA. The title of his thesis (1992) is: “Chromosomal organization of the human VH locus and mapping of VH gene segments comprising the developmentally expressed repertoire”. After his graduation he pursued his research at the department of Human Genetics of the Leiden University Medical Center, in Leiden, The Netherlands. In 2012, he was appointed to full  professor at this department, and also at the department of Medicine, section Endocrinology. He has  more than 200 publications to his name.

He is fascinated by the interplay between genes and environment in the development of overweight and associated diseases. Diseases processes in patients are the starting point to gain novel insight in molecular mechanisms and pathways using cell and mouse models. Vice versa, insight obtained from these cell and mouse models forms the starting point for the development of novel prevention and treatment strategies. The complexity of the interactions, involving multiple organs and systems, requires an integrated systems biology approach. Using both statistical as well as mathematical approaches, these interactions are investigated and mapped.

Prizes and honourable appointments

For his PhD research Ko Willems van Dijk received a predoctoral fellowshio from the March of Dimes Birth Defects Foundation (1989). In 1994 he was appointed as fellow on the Molecular Cardiology Program of the Dutch Heart Foundation and in 2012 he received together with professor Eric Stroes from the AMC a Rembrandt Research Award.

Professor Genetics and system biology of metabolic syndrome

  • Faculteit Geneeskunde
  • Divisie 4
  • Humane Genetica

Work address

LUMC Main Building
Albinusdreef 2
2333 ZA Leiden
Room number S4-P



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