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Principal investigators


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Niels Hellings (°1973) is director of the Biomedical Research Institute (BIOMED) and Professor Immunology at the Faculty of Medicine and Life Sciences, Hasselt University. His research is focused on immune mechanisms that limit autoimmune mediated central nervous system damage in the context of multiple sclerosis (MS).  One aspect focuses on different cues responsible for impaired immune regulation and premature aging of the immune system. Another part of his research focuses on neuropoietic cytokines as mediators of protective autoimmunity. To study this, a wide variety of immunological assays are applied including high speed cell sorting of immune subsets, functional in vitro assays (suppression co-cultures, cytokines (TH1,2,17), cytotoxicity assays) and multicolor flow cytometric phenotyping. BIOMED has access to well defined fresh patient samples through a strong collaboration with national and international neurologists. Apart from human in vitro studies, well established experimental animal models for MS are up and running. In addition to basic research, collaborative valorisation projects are set up with Flemish and international biotech and pharma. Niels Hellings has 2 post docs, 4 predocs and 2 technicians under his guidance and published over 70 international peer-reviewed papers (H-index: 21, >1400 cites). His work is funded by Methusalem, Hercules, FWO Flanders, (SBO)-IWT, IUAP, The Belgian Charcot Foundation and Hasselt University. He is an expert member of the FWO Med3 commission and board member of the Belgian Immunological Society.

Key Publications

  • Circulating follicular regulatory T cells are defective in multiple sclerosis. Dhaeze T, Peelen E, Hombrouck A, Peeters L, Van Wijmeersch B, Lemkens N, Lemkens P, Somers V, Lucas S, Broux B, Stinissen P, Hellings N. J Immunol accepted for publication. (IF: 5.362)

  • Oncostatin M protects against demyelination by inducing a protective microglial phenotype. Janssens K, Maheshwari A, Van den Haute C, Baekelandt V, Stinissen P, Hendriks JJ, Slaets H, Hellings N. Glia. 2015 Apr 29. (IF: 5.446)

  • Leukemia inhibitory factor tips the immune balance towards regulatory T cells in multiple sclerosis. Janssens K, Van den Haute C, Baekelandt V, Lucas S, van Horssen J, Somers V, Van Wijmeersch B, Stinissen P, Hendriks JJ, Slaets H, Hellings N. Brain Behav Immun. 2015 Mar;45:180-8. (IF: 6.128)

  • CX(3)CR1 drives cytotoxic CD4(+)CD28(-) T cells into the brain of multiple sclerosis patients. Broux B, Pannemans K, Zhang X, Markovic-Plese S, Broekmans T, Eijnde BO, Van Wijmeersch B, Somers V, Geusens P, van der Pol S, van Horssen J, Stinissen P, Hellings N.  J Autoimmun. 2012; Feb;38(1):10-9. (IF: 8.145)

  • CNS-targeted LIF Expression Improves Therapeutic Efficacy and Limits Autoimmune-mediated Demyelination in a Model of Multiple Sclerosis. Slaets H, Hendriks JJ, Van den Haute C, Coun F, Baekelandt V, Stinissen P, Hellings N. Mol Ther. 2010; 18(4): 684-691 (IF: 7.14)

Full list of publications