“On a quest to find the cause of neurodegeneration”
Blood brain barrier
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Research towards treating neurodegenerative disorders, such as multiple sclerosis, is aimed at halting ongoing inflammation and restoring brain function, but the (environmental) trigger of disease is still unknown. Therefore, our team searches for the cause(s) of neurodegeneration, combining fundamental research on mechanisms of chronic inflammation and blood-brain barrier (BBB) disruption with the investigation of obesity as an inflammatory cause of neurodegeneration. In this way, novel therapeutic targets are identified and validated for use in patients.
Prof. dr. Bieke Broux: group leader
Bieke Broux (°1985), PhD, is a junior group leader and head of the research line on the blood brain barrier in the NIC&R lab of Prof. Dr. Niels Hellings at Hasselt University (Biomedical Research Institute). After her PhD, she obtained a postdoctoral fellowship grant from the Fund for Scientific Research Flanders (FWO). During the first two years of this postdoctoral fellowship, she worked in the lab of Prof. Dr. Alexandre Prat (CRCHUM, Université de Montréal, Canada), who is an expert in the field of blood brain barrier biology and disruption in multiple sclerosis. For her return to the lab of Prof. Dr. Hellings, she obtained a prestigious European ECTRIMS postdoctoral fellowship grant, as well as several bench fee grants (Belgian Charcot Foundation, FWO, Belgian MS support fund) to start a research line on the blood brain barrier in multiple sclerosis at the Biomedical Research Institute. In addition, she recently received a Global MS Research Booster Award, an international fellowship grant awarded once every two years by the Dutch “Stichting MS Research” to boost the development of a postdoctoral fellow into an independent group leader.
Paulien Baeten: Postdoctoral fellow
Paulien Baeten (°1994) is a postdoctoral researcher in the CBN lab of Prof. Dr. Bieke Broux at Hasselt University (Biomedical Research Institute). After studying Biomedical Sciences at Hasselt University, she started as a FWO-SB PhD fellow in 2018. Her PhD project focused on regulatory T cells (Tregs) interacting with the inflamed blood-brain barrier in MS.
After obtaining her PhD in 2022, she received a VLAIO postdoctoral innovation mandate to translate the results of her PhD towards clinical application. For this topic, she is experienced in in vitro BBB modelling and human Treg assays (FACS, extended flow cytometry, suppression assays, ...) and human Treg genome editing (CRISPR-Cas9-mediated knockout and mRNA induction). In addition, in vivo MS models using FOXP3 reporter mice are developed.
Doryssa Hermans: PhD student
Doryssa Hermans (°1996) started her PhD on October 1st 2019 as part of the NIC&R lab, funded by the special research fund of Hasselt University. After a 3 month research stay in the lab of Prof. Dr. Elga de Vries (Amsterdam) during her master’s thesis, she decided to start a PhD on the topic of immune cell migration in multiple sclerosis. Supervised by Dr. Bieke Broux and Prof. Dr. Niels Hellings, she focusses on the specific targeting of pathogenic T lymphocyte migration across the blood-brain barrier in MS, which is the future therapeutic outlook. For her research, she specializes in mouse and human BBB-endothelial cell culture, in vitro leukocyte adhesion and migration assays, flow cytometry and cell sorting of mouse and human lymphocytes, and different in vivo mouse models for MS.
Gayel Duran: PhD student
Gayel Duran (1996) started as a PhD student in the team of Bieke Broux on November 1 st 2020 funded by the special research fund of Hasselt University. After her bachelor in psychobiology at the University of Amsterdam she proceeded her academic path at Maastricht University. Here she graduated the research master Cognitive & Clinical Neuroscience with a specialization in Drug Development and Neurohealth. During her masters she did a nine-month internship in the USA at Thomas Jefferson University investigating the effects of IL-11 on MS disease pathology. In her PhD she will focus on the effects of inflammasome activation induced by mitochondrial impairment on the local tissue damage in the brains of MS patients. Supervised by Dr. Bieke Broux she will analyze human blood and brain samples using flow cytometry and immunohistochemistry. Further she will use a mouse model to investigate contribution to disease pathogenesis.
Lisa Schuetz: PhD student
Lisa T Schuetz (°1996) started her joint PhD project at Hasselt University and Maastricht University at the beginning of 2022, funded by the special research fund of Hasselt. After her bachelor in Molecular Medicine at the University of Innsbruck, she followed her research interests and started the research master ‘Cognitive & Clinical Neuroscience’ with a specialization in ‘Fundamental Neuroscience’ at Maastricht University. At the end of her master program she did a 9-month internship in Prof. Michela Matteoli’s lab (Milan) to gain more expertise in neuroimmunology. Supervised by Profs. Bieke Broux and Kristiaan Wouters, Lisa will combine her expertise on immunometabolism and pro-inflammatory T helper (Th) cells to investigate how obesity increases the risk of neurodegenerative diseases. Therefore, she will further characterize Th cells in human lean and obese adipose tissue and blood samples and use a mouse model to understand the contribution of the adipose tissue-brain axis on neurodegeneration.
Sarah Chenine: PhD student
Sarah Chenine (°1997) started a joint PhD project at Hasselt University and Maastricht University on November 1st 2021, funded by ‘Fonds Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek’ (FWO). She did her internship working on epigenetics in oligodendrocytes at Hasselt University and graduated in the research master Cognitive & Clinical Neuroscience with a specialization in Drug Development and Neurohealth, at Maastricht University. Supervised by Profs. Bieke Broux, Tim Vanmierlo and Daniel van den Hove, she now focusses on the epigenetic features of regulatory T cells and their restoring capacity during neurodegeneration.
Lisa Van Beers (Maastricht University)
Janne Verreycken (Hasselt University)
Full publication list: Google Scholar