PhD Defense: Emerging insights into early atherosclerosis in adolescents with chronic disease

PhD Defense of Francesca Alexandra Ververs


Atherosclerosis is a life-long disease process. It remains subclinical for years and presents only after the first decades of life as peripheral artery disease, ischemic heart disease (heart attack), or stroke, together known as cardiovascular disease (CVD). Chronic disease may accelerate atherogenesis due to the presence of inflammatory, metabolic, or hemodynamic risk factors.

In the first part of the thesis the “Cardiovascular Disease in Adolescents with Chronic Disease” (CDACD) study results were presented. The study showed that early vascular changes such as an increased pulse wave velocity and wall thickness can be detected in the aorta using MRI in adolescents with chronic disease. In addition, early cardiac changes were detected that suggested that the heart meets greater vascular resistance. These findings underscore the need for cardiovascular follow-up of children with chronic disease, and the importance of the aorta for assessment of preclinical atherosclerosis.

In the second part of the thesis, iNKT cells were introduced as immune players that couple metabolic derangement to an inflammatory immune response, and in that manner may contribute to atherogenesis. However, we don’t know yet how iNKT cells are activated exactly. The thesis describes our efforts to identify activating antigens and environmental factors. We found that the ratio of unhealthy LDL-cholesterol versus HDL-cholesterol may play a role in iNKT cell activation. Ultimately, iNKT cells may be potential immune targets to prevent or decelerate atherosclerosis, but first we must learn a lot more about iNKT cell function in health and disease.

Start date and time
End date and time
Academiegebouw, Domplein 29 & online (livestream link)
PhD candidate
F.A. Ververs
Emerging insights into early atherosclerosis in adolescents with chronic disease
PhD supervisor(s)
prof. dr. A.B.J. Prakken
prof. dr. J. Garssen
dr. H.S. Schipper
dr. B. van 't Land
More information
Full text via Utrecht University Repository