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Faculteit Revalidatiewetenschappen



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Situation, vision and mission

Our current society is experiencing a high, and continuously increasing, prevalence of chronic internal diseases such as obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and cancer. The increase in the prevalence of these conditions is often a direct result of physical inactivity and an unhealthy lifestyle, but may also be an indirect result of physical inactivity due to neurological and/or musculoskeletal disorders. In this regard, the research cluster cardiorespiratory and internal disorders (CRI) frequently collaborates with researchers from the neurological and musculoskeletal research clusters. These chronic internal diseases lead to increasing health costs, a shorter lifespan and a lower quality of life. That is why research that leads to improvements in the prevention, care and treatment of these chronic internal diseases is of great societal importance.


Research activities

The REVAL (Rehabilitation Research Center) CRI research cluster focuses on (i) optimizing exercise training interventions or rehabilitation programs for the above-mentioned diseases on the one hand, and (ii) on the other hand unravelling the mechanisms that underlie the clinical benefits of exercise interventions and rehabilitation programs.

(i) Optimization of training interventions and rehabilitation programs. The CRI research cluster investigates the impact of various rehabilitation programs and exercise training forms on the functional and exercise capacity, physical activity, muscle strength, body composition and metabolism of persons with the above-mentioned diseases. Examples include: endurance training, high-intense interval training, electro muscle stimulation and strength training. In addition, energy substrate manipulation (e.g. training in the fasted state) and food supplementation (e.g. beta-alanine) are used to maximize the effects of exercise training intervention. The aim of these studies is to find out which type of rehabilitation and exercise training produces the greatest clinical and molecular benefits in persons with chronic internal diseases.

(ii) Underlying mechanisms. In addition to reporting the clinical benefits of the exercise interventions described above, the CRI research cluster also investigates the underlying mechanisms that give rise to these effects. These studies focus on metabolic and endocrine (fat cell physiology, glycaemic control and insulin sensitivity, endocrine regulation), as well as cardiopulmonary (heart function, lung function) and muscular (muscle cell/fibre morphology and physiology) adaptations. As a result, the CRI studies are a combination of clinical and molecular research, and studies are also conducted in animal models (in close collaboration with BIOMED (https://www.uhasselt.be/biomed)).

In addition to these research activities, the CRI research cluster is also strongly committed to the implementation of such interventions in society by contributing to international clinical guidelines.


Operational methods and techniques

Our research group often uses techniques from internal medicine, such as:

  • muscle biopsy (with related molecular research techniques)
  • fat biopsy (with in vitro and molecular research) and adipose tissue microdialysis
  • echocardiography and electrocardiography
  • ergospirometry, VO2 kinetics tests, metabolic flexibility tests
  • lung function tests
  • autonomic cardiovascular regulation testing
  • basal metabolism testing
  • examination of glucose regulation and insulin sensitivity by: oral glucose tolerance tests, euglycaemic
  • hyperinsulinaemic clamp tests and fasting blood samples
  • dual x-ray absorptiometry scans
  • test dynamometry
  • functional tests

In addition to human research, animal models are often used within the CRI research cluster to investigate the pathophysiology, as well as the impact of exercise training intervention, in models for congestion in heart failure, and type 2 diabetes. Metabolic regulation (intravenous glucose tolerance tests, fat cell physiology), heart function (echocardiography and cardiomyocyte physiology), skeletal muscle physiology and immunology (cytokines) are often central to this.


Valorisation and services

The members of this cluster provide numerous presentations at national and international conferences and symposia, as well as advice for industry and companies. Training is also provided on a regular basis, either at Hasselt University itself (REVAL Academy) or externally.



The CRI research cluster of the REVAL Rehabilitation Research Center works closely with numerous other (foreign) laboratories and universities. There is a very close collaboration with BIOMED of UHasselt.


Principal investigators

Prof. dr. Dominique Hansen (Professor, Rehabilitation sciences and physiotherapy)

Prof. dr. Martijn Spruit (Professor, Rehabilitation sciences and physiotherapy)

Prof. dr. Chris Burtin (Assistant professor, Rehabilitation sciences and physiotherapy)

Post-doctoral researchers

Dr. Charly Keytsman (Rehabilitation sciences and physiotherapy)*

Dr. Kenneth Verboven (Biomedical sciences)


PhD Students

Jana De Brandt (Movement sciences)

Wouter Franssen (Biomedical sciences)*

Maarten Van Herck (Rehabilitation sciences and physiotherapy)

Lisa Van Ryckeghem (Biomedische wetenschappen)

Kirsten Quadflieg (Rehabilitation sciences and physiotherapy)

Nastasia Marinus (Rehabilitation sciences and physiotherapy)

*under direct guidance of Prof. dr. Bert Op ’t Eijnde from BIOMED.

Voluntary scientific staff

Dr. Jamal Belkhouribchia (endocrinologist-allergist)


The CRI research cluster can count on financial support from FWO, H2020, Erasmus + Sport, Limburg cancer fund, King Baudouin Foundation and Hasselt University (internal research funds).

Key publications (2018-2020)

Burtin C, Bezuidenhout J, Sanders KJC, Dingemans AC, Schols AMWJ, Peeters STH, Spruit MA, De Ruysscher DKM. Handgrip weakness, low fat-free mass, and overall survival in non-small cell lung cancer treated with curative-intent radiotherapy. J Cachexia Sarcopenia Muscle. 2020;11(2):424-431. Impact Factor: 9.8

Radtke T, Crook S, Kaltsakas G, Louvaris Z, Berton D, Urquhart DS, Kampouras A, Rabinovich RA, Verges S, Kontopidis D, Boyd J, Tonia T, Langer D, De Brandt J, Goërtz YMJ, Burtin C, Spruit MA, Braeken DCW, Dacha S, Franssen FME, Laveneziana P, Eber E, Troosters T, Neder JA, Puhan MA, Casaburi R, Vogiatzis I, Hebestreit H. ERS statement on standardisation of cardiopulmonary exercise testing in chronic lung diseases. Eur Respir Rev. 2019;28(154):180101. Impact Factor: 6.2

Troosters T, Langer D, Burtin C, Chatwin M, Clini EM, Emtner M, Gosselink R, Grant K, Inal-Ince D, Lewko A, Main E, Oberwaldner B, Tabin N, Pitta F. A guide for respiratory physiotherapy postgraduate education: presentation of the harmonised curriculum. Eur Respir J. 2019;53(6):1900320. Impact Factor: 12.3

Spruit MA, Singh SJ, Rochester CL, Greening NJ, Franssen FME, Pitta F, Troosters T, Nolan C, Vogiatzis I, Clini EM, Man WD, Burtin C, Goldstein RS, Vanfleteren LEGW, Kenn K, Nici L, Janssen DJA, Casaburi R, Shioya T, Garvey C, Carlin BW, ZuWallack RL, Steiner M, Wouters EFM, Puhan MA. Pulmonary rehabilitation for patients with COPD during and after an exacerbation-related hospitalisation: back to the future?. Eur Respir J. 2018;51(1):1701312. Impact Factor: 12.3

Klok FA, Boon GJAM, Barco S, Endres M, Geelhoed JJM, Knauss S, Rezek SA, Spruit MA, Vehreschild J, Siegerink B. The Post-COVID-19 Functional Status (PCFS) Scale: a tool to measure functional status over time after COVID-19 [published online ahead of print, 2020 May 12]. Eur Respir J. 2020;2001494. doi:10.1183/13993003.01494-2020. Impact Factor: 12.3

Ambrosetti M, Abreu A, Corrà U, Davos C, Hansen D, Frederix I, Iliou MC, Pedretti RFE, Schmid JP, Vigorito C, Voller V, Wilhelm M, Piepoli MF. Secondary prevention through comprehensive cardiac rehabilitation: from knowledge to implementation. 2020 update. A position paper from the Secondary Prevention and Rehabilitation Section of the European Association of Preventive Cardiology. Eur J Prev Cardiol 2020; e-pub ahead of print. Impact Factor 5.8

Hansen D, Niebauer N, Cornelissen V, Barna O, Neunhäuserer D, Stettler C, Tonoli C, Greco E, Fagard R, Coninx K, Vanhees L, Piepoli MF, Pedretti R, Rovelo Ruiz G, Corrà U, Schmid JP, Davos CH, Edelmann F, Abreu A, Rauch B, Ambrosetti M, Sarzi Braga S, Beckers P, Bussotti M, Faggiano P, Garcia-Porrero E, Kouidi E, Lamotte M, Reibis R, Spruit MA, Takken T, Vigorito C, Völler H, Doherty P, Dendale P. Exercise prescription in patients with different combinations of cardiovascular disease risk factors: a consensus statement from the EXPERT working group. Sports Med 2018; 48: 1781-97. Impact Factor: 8.5

Verboven M, Van Ryckeghem L, Belkhouribchia J, Dendale P, Eijnde BO, Hansen D*, Bito V*. Effect of exercise intervention on cardiac function in type 2 diabetes mellitus: a systematic review. Sports Med 2019; 49: 255-68. Impact Factor: 8.5 *Shared last authors.

Pelliccia A, Sharma S, Gati S, Bäck M, Börjesson M, Caselli S, Collet JP, Corrado D, Drezner JA, Halle M, Hansen D, Heidbuchel H, Myers M, Niebauer J, Papadakis M, Piepoli MF, Prescott E, Roos-Hesselink JW, Stuart AG, Taylor RS, Thompson PD, Tiberi M, Vanhees L, Wilhelm M, ESC Scientific Document Group, 2020 ESC
Guidelines on sports cardiology and exercise in patients with cardiovascular disease: The Task Force on sports cardiology and exercise in patients with cardiovascular disease of the European Society of Cardiology (ESC). Eur Heart J 2020; e-pub ahead of print, doi.org/10.1093/eurheartj/ehaa605. IF 22.76, Q1.