MSc thesis Human and Animal Physiology

Human and Animal Physiology is committed to teaching that challenges and inspires MSc students.

HAP has extensive expertise in performing controlled dietary intervention studies and in the integrated metabolic, functional genomic and immunohistochemical analysis of such studies. We perform detailed mechanistic studies in (model) animals and efficacy studies in humans. Cell studies are used for mechanistic support.

For MSc students, we offer possibilities to participate directly in physiological studies with humans and animals. Other thesis research focus on cell studies and in-depth analysis of samples from human and animal studies using a variety of biochemical, molecular biological and histological methods for comprehensive mechanistic and physiological interpretation.

MSc topics will continue on the latest findings in this research project, so the exact topic will be determined with the supervisor.

If you are interested please contact our secretariat for an appointment with Dr Sander Grefte to discuss your options and the research you are interested in.

MSc Thesis Subjects


1. Poyphenols and Metabolic Health

Several dietary compounds exist that have potential positive health effects. Polyphenols are known examples of such compounds. The exact underlying mechanisms are however still largely unknown. The aim of this project is to investigate the mechanisms underlying the positive health effects of polyphenols in dietary intervention studies performed in mice. MSc topics within this project include molecular physiological, biochemical, immunohistochemical and analytical analyses.

2. Hypoxic Effects on Energy Metabolism

Obesity is associated with an increased adipose tissue mass. Due to the expansion of the adipose tissue, oxygen is not able to reach all adipocytes thereby creating a local hypoxic environment at tissue level. The aim of this project is to investigate the effect of (short term) oxygen limitation on energy metabolism in dietary intervention studies performed in mice. MSc topics within this project include molecular physiological, biochemical, immunohistochemical and analytical analyses. MSc topics will continue on the latest findings in this research project, so the exact topic will be determined with the supervisor.

3. Nutritional Programming: Effects on later-life Metabolic Health

The diet in early-life can affect our physiology in later-life, with important consequences for metabolic health (nutritional programming). It is well known that the gestational period is important for nutritional programming, but also the transition period between lactation and solid foods is important. However, little is known on the role of specific nutrients, especially carbohydrates. The aim of this project is to investigate programming effects of carbohydrates on metabolic health in preclinical studies. MSc topics within this project include molecular physiological, biochemical, immunohistochemical and analytical analyses.

4. Oxygen Availability and Energy Metabolism

The pathway by which most of the ATP is produced depends on the availability of oxygen in cells and tissues. Two important aspects influence the tissue oxygen availability: arterial oxygen saturation and tissue oxygen utilization. The aim of this study is to investigate the role of oxygen availability in the regulation of energy metabolism in humans under different environmental and dietary conditions.

5. Lipid Metabolism and Metabolic Health

Metabolic health can be defined as the ability to adapt to acute changes in metabolic status. Impaired regulation of lipid metabolism has been suggested to play a role in subjects with compromised metabolic health, such as in obese individuals. The aim of this project is to investigate lipid metabolism and its related compounds by using metabolic challenge tests in humans under different dietary conditions. MSc topics within this project include physiological, biochemical and analytical analyses.

6. Carnitine in relation to ageing

Ageing is associated with increasing physical disabilities and prevalence of frailty, which negatively affects independence and quality of life. In addition, ageing is also associated with a decrease in intramuscular carnitine levels. Simultaneously, intramuscular mitochondrial content and function decline. The aim of this project is to investigate if low intramuscular carnitine levels in the elderly contribute to decreased mitochondrial function and subsequently, if this could lead to the geriatric syndrome of frailty. MSc topics within this project include physiological, biochemical, and analytical analysis, as well as being involved in a human study. MSc topics will continue on the latest findings in this research project, so the exact topic will be determined with the supervisor.

7. Inflammatory Effects on Metabolic Health

Adipose tissue expands significantly during obesity, which often leads to dysfunctional adipose tissue. This effect is often coupled to the onset of multiple unfavourable processes, including inflammation.  The aim of this project is to investigate the role of inflammatory processes in the regulation of metabolic health in dietary intervention studies performed in mice. MSc topics within this project include molecular physiological, biochemical, immunohistochemical and analytical analyses.

8. Vitamins and Mitochondrial Health

Mitochondria perform indispensable cell functions such as macronutrient metabolism, apoptosis, immune signalling and reactive oxygen species (ROS) production. As a consequence, impairment of mitochondrial function may provoke development of disease. B-vitamins are a class of micronutrients with a positive impact on mitochondrial function. The aim of this project is to investigate the role of B-vitamins in the regulation of mitochondrial and metabolic health in dietary intervention studies performed in mice. MSc topics within this project include molecular physiological, biochemical, immunohistochemical and analytical analyses.

9. Carotenoids and Metabolic Health

Several nutritional compounds exist that have potential positive health effects. Carotenoids are a class of micronutrients which may positively impact metabolic health due to their ability to deactivate free radicals such as reactive oxygen species (ROS). The aim of this project is to investigate the effects of carotenoids on whole body and cellular physiology in dietary intervention studies performed in animals, as well as the role of carotenoids in the regulation of metabolic health. MSc topics within this project include molecular physiological, biochemical, immunohistochemical and analytical analyses. MSc topics will continue on the latest findings in this research project, so the exact topic will be determined with the supervisor.

10. Mitochondrial Health in Male and Female Reproduction

Disturbance of metabolic homeostasis may affect the delicate microenvironment of reproductive organs subsequently leading to inappropriate germ cell maturation and fertility problems. Although altered mitochondrial function has been suggested to be crucially involved, the underlying mechanisms are largely unknown. The aim of this project is to investigate the functional and mechanistic role of mitochondria in germ cell development in dietary intervention studies performed in rodents. MSc topics within this project include molecular physiological, biochemical, immunohistochemical and analytical analyses.

11. Improving piglet birth weight and litter uniformity by studying ovarian follicular development

Breeding for large litters in sows has resulted in higher piglet mortality. This higher piglet mortality is due to a combination of increased variation in litter birth weight and a higher number of piglets with a low birth weight. The aim of this project is to investigate if decreased piglet birth weights and lower litter uniformity could be explained by reduced follicle and oocyte quality and by more variation in follicle and oocyte quality. MSc topics within this project include molecular physiological, biochemical, immunohistochemical and analytical analysis. MSc topics will continue on the latest findings in this research project, so the exact topic will be determined with the supervisor.

12.Mitochondrial Dynamics and Cellular Health

Mitochondria form a complex network in a cell, and the morphology of this network is controlled via fusion and fission processes (i.e. mitochondrial dynamics). Mitochondrial dynamics is a very important process that regulates mitochondrial functioning, and subsequently, good mitochondrial functioning is essential for cellular health. The aim of this project is to identify gene expression profiles that reflect different states of mitochondrial dynamics in dietary intervention studies, in vivo or in vitro. MSc topics within this project include molecular physiological, biochemical and analytical analyses.

13. Physical Performance and Intestinal Permeability

Intense exercise strains the body and thereby also affects gut health by increasing the intestinal permeability. This can be partly explained as exercise results in lowering of the ATP availability in the intestine, which in turn will increase in permeability. The aim of this project is to investigate the possible underlying mechanisms of intestinal permeability and cellular energy status, in vivo and in vitro. MSc topics within this project include molecular physiological, biochemical and analytical analyses.

14. Diet in a dish

A healthy diet can prevent disease onset and progression. However, what makes a particular diet healthy is incompletely understood. We will use cultured human or animal cells to test optimal nutrient compositions that will reliably mimic in vivo human situation and can benefit cellular health. MSc topics within this project include molecular physiological, biochemical, immunohistochemical and analytical analyses. MSc topics will continue on the latest findings in this research project, so the exact topic will be determined with the supervisor.

15. Sending out a mitochondrial message

Recently it has been discovered that mitochondria communicate with other parts of the cell by using its own metabolites. Furthermore, mitochondrial messages can be used by the body as a means to communicate between organs. We will study particular metabolites that can function as signalling compounds between organelles, cells and organs. MSc topics within this project include molecular physiological, biochemical, immunohistochemical and analytical analyses. MSc topics will continue on the latest findings in this research project, so the exact topic will be determined with the supervisor.

16. Altering the Warburg effect by targeting orphan nuclear receptor signalling

Cancer cells rely on glycolytic metabolism even in the presence of oxygen, the so called Warburg effect. If we can target glycolytic metabolism specifically in cancer cells, it might be possible to stop cancer cells from growing. By altering nuclear receptor signalling it is possible to change metabolic pathways and could thus be relevant for cancer therapy. MSc topics within this project include molecular physiological, biochemical, immunohistochemical and analytical analyses. MSc topics will continue on the latest findings in this research project, so the exact topic will be determined with the supervisor.