Dr. van Bilsen studied biology at the University of Leiden and received his PhD from the Maastricht University in 1988 on thebasis of a thesis on disturbances in lipidmetabolism in the ischemic and reperfused heart. In 1990 he received a NATO-Science Fellowship and a grant from the American Heart Association to work for two years in the Division of Molecular Cardiology from the University of California, San Diego, studying the cardiac specific regulation of gene expression and the molecular mechanisms initiating cardiomyocyte hypertrophy. In 1993 the Royal Dutch Academy of Sciences (KNAW) appointed him Senior Investigator. In 1998 he received the Edmond Hustinx price for Science. In that year he also became Established Investigator of the Netherlands Heart Foundation. Since then he received various prestigious national grants (ZonMW-TOP) and participated in FP6- and FP7-funded European projects allowing him to study the molecular mechanism and pathophysiological significance of changes in cardiac energy metabolism (“metabolic remodelling”) in the failing and diabetic heart.
More recently the pathogenic mechanism underlying cardiac diastolic dysfunction, frequently observed in obese, diabetic, hypertensive patients, has become an important focus of his research. In this context the nuclear hormone receptors, the PPAR’s in particular, acting both as transcriptional regulators of cardiac lipid metabolism and inhibitors of inflammatory signalling pathways, are considered important therapeutic targets. Furthermore, as the immune response and inflammation are directly affected by alterations in whole body and tissue metabolism (processes referred to as “immuno-metabolism” and “metainflammation”), it is investigated to what extent this contributes to cardiac disease progression. Molecular, cellular and physiological techniques and bioinformatics approaches are combined to address these questions.