Hans Vink received his physics degree in 1989 at the University of Amsterdam. After receiving his PhD in Medicine in 1994 and a post-doctoral fellowship at the Dept. of Molecular Physiology and Biological Physics, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA, USA, he returned to the University of Amsterdam and developed a research programme on the endothelial glycocalyx (www.glycocalyx.nl), supported by grants from the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO 1997-1999) and a fellowship from the Royal Netherlands Academy of Sciences (KNAW 2000–2005). In 2006, he was awarded an Established Investigatorship by the Dutch Heart Foundation and moved to the University of Maastricht as a Principal Investigator at CARIM. His research on the endothelial glycocalyx progresses towards clinically applicable tools for early diagnosis of cardiovascular risk and new therapeutic approaches to protect the vascular wall against atherogenic challenges.
The endothelial glycocalyx forms a complex, hydrated mesh of cell surface proteoglycans, glycosaminoglycans, and plasma proteins that is situated between the vascular wall and flowing blood. Strategically situated between flowing blood and the vascular surface, an intact glycocalyx forms the first line of defence of blood vessels against atherogenic challenges by limiting leakage of atherogenic lipoproteins into the vessel wall and preventing adhesion of circulating coagulatory and inflammatory cells to the vascular endothelial lining. Recent clinical studies have demonstrated that monitoring glycocalyx damage identifies early vascular vulnerability in patients with e.g. early cognitive impairment (neurology), premature atherosclerosis and coronary microvascular disease (cardiology), impaired renal function (nephrology), insulin resistance (diabetes) and acute vascular vulnerability in critically ill patients (ICU).
As a spin-off of Maastricht UMC+, GlycoCheck BV is developing a non-invasive test for early detection of personal vascular vulnerability in the context of increased cardiovascular risk by e.g. diabetes. The test is based on automated analysis of clinical videomicroscopic recordings of microvascular hemodynamics to check the quality of the endothelial glycocalyx, a protective coating on the luminal surface of blood vessels.