BioNanotechnology (BNT)

Exploring Extracellular Vesicles as key players to identify chronic systemic inflammation in patients.

Prof. dr. Luc Michiels

Extracellular vesicles
Chronic inflammation
Chronic inflammatory diseases
Forensic DNA analysis


Tel.: +32 (0)11 26 92 31

Research focus

The BNT group is applying nanotechnology approaches in molecular biological research. Previously,  our research was focused on the development of new biosensing principles in close collaboration with the Institute of material research (IMOMEC) at Hasselt University (joined patents: EP 2 649 197 B1 and US 9,228,970 B2). The builded expertise in bionanotechnology is now dedicated to the detection of specific subsets of Extracellular Vesicles (EV) in patient derived samples and in patient body fluids. The main research topic is to study the role of EV in intercellular communication in normal and pathological conditions and particular the content of inflammation associated EV in inflammation related diseases.  In this line of research we developed an assay to measure the level of pro-inflammatory EV in serum of patients by applying aptamer based technology (patent pending: EP20212664.5).

Core techniques

Over the past years the BNT group has built a vast expertise in EV based research and invested in a fully equipped EV isolation, characterization and functional testing lab.  This includes ultracentrifugation, NanoTracking Analysis (NanoSight NS300; two laser system), SEC column chromatography, and in collaboration with other research groups at the Biomedical Research Institute TEM and High resolution fluorescent microscopy.  Cargo analysis of EV can be achieved using western blotting and SPR biosensor technology (Biacore T200; White FOx) and a dedicated EV oriented next generation sequencing platform (BioAnalyser, LabChipGX, digital droplet PCR QX 200, QPCR, MiSeq NGS sequencer) for genetic analyses.

Key publications

  • Munuswamy, J. De Brandt, C. Burtin, W. Derave, J. Aumann, M.A. Spruit, L. Michiels. Monomeric CRP is Elevated in Patients with COPD Compared to Non-COPD Control Persons.
    J Inflamm Res., 14, pp. 4503-4507 (2021) DOI: 10.2147/JIR.S320659.  (IF: 4.63).

  • Kuypers, N. Smisdom, I. Pintelon, J.P. Timmermans, M. Ameloot, L. Michiels, J. Hendrix, B. Hosseinkhani. Unsupervised Machine Learning-Based Clustering of Nanosized Fluorescent Extracellular Vesicles. Small, 17, (2021) DOI: 10.1002/smll.202006786.  (IF: 13.28).

  • Hosseinkhani, N. M. S. van den Akker, D. G. M. Molin, L. Michiels. (Sub)populations of extracellular vesicles released by TNF-α –triggered human endothelial cells promote vascular inflammation and monocyte migration. Journal of Extracellular Vesicles, 9, (2020) DOI: 10.1080/20013078.2020.1801153. (IF: 25.84).

  • Baharak Hosseinkhani, Sören Kuypers, Nynke M.S. van den Akker, Daniel G.M. Molin, Luc Michiels. Extracellular vesicles work as a functional inflammatory mediator between vascular endothelial cells and immune Frontiers in Immunology 9:1789 (13) 2018. doi: 10.3389/fimmu.2018.01789 (IF: 4.72)

  • Hosseinkhani Baharak, van den Akker Nynke, D’Haen Jan, Gagliardi Mick, Struys Tom, Lambrichts Ivo, Waltenberger Johannes, Nelissen Inge, Hooyberghs Jef, Molin Daniel G.M., Michiels Luc. Direct detection of nano-scale extracellular vesicles derived from inflammation-triggered endothelial cells using surface plasmon resonance, Nanomedicine: Nanotechnology, Biology, and Medicine (2017), doi:10.1016/j.nano.2017.03.010 (IF: 5.57)

  • Vanbrabant Jeroen, Leirs Karen, Vanschoenbeek Katrijn, Lammertyn Jeroen and Michiels Luc. reMelting curve analysis as a tool for enrichment monitoring in the SELEX process. ANALYST 139: 589 (7) 2014. DOI:1039/c3an01884a. (IF: 4.02)

Forensic DNA analysis

Luc Michiels was also director of the forensic DNA laboratory at Hasselt University until December 2016. The lab was certified by the Belgian accreditation body BELAC and holded an accreditation (239-TEST) according to the ISO/IEC 17025 norm to ensure the high quality standard in DNA analysis.  Moreover, Luc Michiels and his lab was recognized by the Ministry of Justice for performing DNA analysis in criminal cases with certification number 2014/DNA/B/007.  Since January 2017, the forensic DNA lab has been joining the international Eurofins forensics group as part of the Eurofins forensics Belgium lab.  Within the new Belgian legislation on expert witnesses, Luc Michiels is certified as a forensic DNA expert (EXP2104593) for the Belgian Justice Department.