Deputy Director Kitt Falk Petersen – University of Copenhagen

Deputy Director Kitt Falk Petersen

Professor, MD

Curriculum in Brief

Dr. Petersen is Professor of Internal Medicine in the Section of Endocrinology at Yale University School of Medicine. She is Honorary Professor of Medicine and Clinical Physiology at University of Copenhagen, and Deputy Director of the Imaging and Liver Metabolism Section at the Novo-Nordisk Metabolic Center for Basic Metabolic Research, University of Copenhagen.

Her research is mainly focused on using MRI/MRS in combination with stable isotopes and GC-MS/tandem Mass Spec to examine glucose, lipid and protein metabolism and the pathogenesis of insulin resistance in humans.

Awards and Honors

Dr. Petersen is the recipient of numerous prestigious awards for her clinical research, including the Henry Christian Award for Excellence in Clinical Research (1997, 1998, and 2004), the Novartis Young Investigator Award for Excellence in Clinical Research in Diabetes (2002), the Glaxo Smith Kline Scholar Award (2003) and the Distinguished Clinical Scientist Award from the American Diabetes Association (2009).

Dr. Petersen is a member of the American Diabetes Association, American Physiological Society, American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Society for Clinical Investigation, the European Association for the Study of Diabetes and other professional organizations.

Research Profile

Fat distribution changes in tissues due to natural aging may impact metabolism and explain the higher susceptibility of older adults to insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes. Dr. Petersen’s studies are focused on how insulin resistance develops, and has found that muscle becomes less efficient at converting fat to energy as we age, leading to excess fat buildup in tissues such as muscle and liver. Exercise and reducing caloric intake both have dramatic effects on this process, by preventing and removing excessive fat storage in tissues. These findings suggest that even moderate weight loss and/or brief periods of regular exercise may improve insulin sensitivity, fend off fatty liver disease, and prevent age-related insulin resistance. Dr. Petersen has published over 110 articles using MR spectroscopy and stable isotopes to explore the pathogenesis and genetics of insulin resistance in aging, obesity, and low birth weight and type 2 diabetes.

Key Recent Discoveries

• Regulation of Mitochondrial Biogenesis in Muscle of Insulin Resistance Offspring of Parents with Type 2 Diabetes by Lipotrotein Lipase. Demonstrated that mitochondrial dysfunction in insulin resistant offspring may be secondary to alterations in LPL function. Ref.: K. Morino, K.F. Petersen, S. Sono, C. Choi, V. T. Samuel, A. Li, A. Gallo, H. Zhao, A. Kashiwagi, I. S. Goldberg, H. Wangm R. H. Eckel, H. Maegawa, G. I. Shulman.  Diabetes, 61:877-887, 2012.

• Reversal of Muscle Insulin resistance by Weight Reduction in Young, Lean, Insulin-Resistant Offspring of Parents with Type 2 Diabetes. Demonstrated that caloric restriction reduces ectopic intracellular lipid from the muscle cell and thereby reverses muscle insulin resistance in lean insulin resistant offspring. Ref.: K.F. Petersen, S. Dufour, K. Morino, Peter S. Yoo, G. W. Cline, G. I. Shulman.  PNAS, 109: 8236-40, 2012.

• Skeletal Muscle Insulin Resistance Promotes Increased Hepatic de Novo Lipogenesis, Hyperlipidemia and Hepatic Steatosis in the Elderly. Demonstrated that muscle insulin resistance in healthy older people leads to diversion of carbohydrate away from muscle glycogen synthesis and to lipid production in the liver. Ref.: C. Flannery, S. Dufour, R. Rabøl, G.I. Shulman, K.F. Petersen. Diabetes,61: 2711-7, 2012.

• Direct Assessment of Hepatic Mitochondrial Oxidative and Anaplerotic Fluxes in Humans Using Dynamic 13C Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy. The first direct method to determine rates of mitochondrial oxidation and gluconeogenesis in liver of healthy individuals. Ref.: D.E. Befroy, R.J. Perry, N. Jain, S. Dufour, G.W. Cline, J. Trimmer, J. Brosnan, D.L. Rothman, K.F. Petersen, G.I. Shulman. Nature Medicine, 1(20):98-102, 2013.

• The Role of Hepatic Lipids in Hepatic Insulin Resistance and Type 2 Diabetes. A comprehensive review of studies in mice and humans demonstrating a key role for hepatic diacylglycerol as the underlying trigger for development of hepatic insulin resistance. Further presents therapies based on this mechanism which could cure non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and type 2 diabetes. Ref.: R.J. Perry, V.T. Samuel, K.F. Petersen, G.I. Shulman.  Nature, 510(7503):84-91, 2014.