Leon Schurgers is professor of vascular calcification and vice chair of the department of biochemistry, which is part of the Cardiovascular Research Institute CARIM, the largest research institute of the University of Maastricht. His work includes molecular biology, biochemistry, animal and human nutrition, pharmacology, and clinical studies in the fields of vascular disease. He is leading the scientific part on vitamin K-research, vascular smooth muscle cells and iPSCs and supervising technical engineers, post docs and PhD students.
His project line tries to elucidate the molecular mechanisms of vitamin K-dependent proteins (VKDP) by which (vascular) calcification is initiated and propagated: key cellular events include phenotypic switching of vascular smooth muscle cells (VSMC) and the formation of extracellular vesicles and apoptotic bodies contributing to the initiation and progression of calcification. The regulation of VKDP biosynthesis, its sites of action and its putative relationship with apoptosis is insufficient to understand the pathogenesis of ectopic calcification at a level that allows the development of novel diagnostic tools and therapeutic strategies for VKDP.
Importantly, these findings will help to understand the paradoxal observation that patients with low vitamin K-status during oral anticoagulant treatment develop massive ectopic calcification and our results might provide new insights in prognostic and preventive measures.