Department of Microbiology and Immunology
The department focuses on the study, prevention and treatment of important diseases caused by viruses, bacteria, fungi and parasites, the study of the complex host-microbiome interaction, and the study of the host immune system in infections, cancer, kidney diseases, autoimmunity, allergy and organ transplantation.
About the Department
The Department of Microbiology and Immunology consists of 15 laboratories and includes the Rega Institute. The Rega Institute has a long-standing expertise in technologies for microbiological, biochemical, immunological, and cell biological in silico, in vitro, and in vivo research with the use of animal models and clinical specimens. The central themes of microbiology (infections) and immunity (defence against infections) are intrinsically interlinked, providing opportunities for complementary research activities, and creating possibilities for applications in diagnostics and therapy of emerging and therapy-resistant infections, tumours, and autoimmune diseases.
As a department, we are committed to cutting-edge fundamental and clinical research, with as final aims the development of innovative diagnostics and therapeutic services that will benefit patients everywhere. We aspire to uphold the highest student-oriented standards of learning, education, and mentoring. The Department of Microbiology and Immunology wants to create an academic environment for its faculty, research staff and students that is collegial, productive, challenging, flexible, collaborative, motivating and supportive of career development.
Laboratory of Genetics of Autoimmunity
Laboratory of Clinical Immunology
Experimental Laboratory Immunology
Laboratory of Experimental Transplantation
Laboratory of Clinical Infectiology
Laboratory of Dermatoimmunology
Laboratory of Abdominal Transplantation
Laboratory of Clinical Bacteriology and Mycology
Laboratory of Virology and Chemotherapy (Rega Institute)
Laboratory of Molecular Bacteriology (Rega Institute)
Laboratory of Clinical and Epidemiological Virology (Rega Institute)
Laboratory of Immunobiology (Rega Institute)
Laboratory of Molecular Immunology (Rega Institute)
Laboratory of Nephrology
Laboratory of Pediatric Immunology
We are interested in the cellular and molecular basis of immune tolerance mechanisms and failure. We study the phenotype of immune pathology and use a ‘forward genetics’ approach of taking mouse strains with a genetic predisposition to immune pathology and then work out how this is controlled and why those genetic variations cause pathology.
Our research focuses on tolerance against autoantigens and allergens. Why is tolerance lost at the initiation of disease and how can it be restored? Special emphasis is put on the role of regulatory cells, costimulatory signals and suppressive cytokines. We use several animal models (autoimmune encephalitis, allergic asthma and colitis) and also study these aspects in human subjects with allergic and autoimmune diseases.
• Study of the regulation of the immune response to Streptococcus pneumoniae
• Immunodeficiencies, with particular interest on innate immunity
• Autoimmunity, with particular interest on serological markers
Our research addresses the immune mechanisms underlying organ allo- or xenograft tolerance or rejection, and the mechanisms underlying immune-mediated graft-versus-tumor effects of allogeneic bone marrow transplantation and post transplant adoptive cell therapy. The lab also investigates the development of new immunosuppressive small molecules in collaboration with the Laboratory of Medicinal Chemistry.
The staff members are dedicated clinicians involved in the patient care of the General Internal Medicine Department, including Emergency Care and Intensive Care. Hence, the research efforts have tight links with clinical care and provide a dynamic interplay between bench and bedside. Examples of topics include: hepatic critical care: detoxification devices and hemodynamics; cholestasis in the critically ill; clinical trials in sepsis, vasculitis syndromes and noninfectious inflammatory disorders; and fever of unknown origin.
• Skin manifestations in systemic disease
• Clinical research and identification of contact allergens in cosmetic, pharmaceutical, household and industrial products
• Occupational dermatitis
• Screening of perfume allergens
• Multidisciplinary reference center for porphyrias
• Phototesting and action spectrum determination in photosensitive patients
• Identification of trigger factors in atopic dermatitis
• Atopy School
• Multidisciplinary management of epidermolysis bullosa
The Abdominal Transplant Surgery Lab conducts the following translational research projects:
Development of tolerogenic protocols to promote graft acceptance after intestinal transplantation (in cooperation with the Laboratory of Experimental Transplantation).
Prevention/amelioration of ischemia reperfusion injury after liver, kidney, intestinal transplantation by improved preservation strategies (among them machine perfusion) and/or biological intervention.
The lab uses models of transplantation and/or ischemia reperfusion injury in rats and pigs. We perform and participate in randomized clinical trials.
Johan Van Eldere
• Invasive pulmonary aspergillosis: biomarkers in ‘exhaled breath condensate’ for early diagnosis and diversity of pathogens involved
• Immunological and molecular interaction between the host and Candida Albicans biofilm.
• Genetics and mechanisms of biofilm formation by staphylococci
• Vaccines for prevention of staphylococcal biofilms and infections
• Aggregation as a new antimicrobial strategy
• New concepts for the therapy of human viruses, including HIV, hepatitis viruses, influenza viruses, emerging viruses, and tumour-inducing viruses
• Structure and function of new targets for antiviral and anticancer therapy, and mechanism of action of novel inhibitors
• Molecular basis for drug resistance
• Kinetics of drug-target interaction
• Pharmacology of new drug leads in cell culture and animal models
• Characterization of protein secretion pathways for improved protein production and identification of virulence factors
• Research on novel antibiotic and vaccine targets
• Studies to prevent/treat biofilm-related infections on biometerials
• Study of the classical and molecular epidemiology of RNA and DNA viruses
• Development of new bioinformatics and molecular biological tools for virus discovery and analyses
• Investigation of in vivo virus evolution
• Investigation of therapy response in infected patients.
• Proteinase research with a specific focus on matrix metalloproteinases and inhibitors
• Biology, biochemistry, and molecular medicine of proteinase cascades
• Technology development for novel microbial and host enzyme targets with specific focus on viral and malaria infections and autoimmune diseases and cancer
• High-throughput capillary electrophoresis platform for DNA sequencing and for peptide and inhibitor analysis
Jo Van Damme
• Chemokine research, including biological and biochemical characterization, gene regulation, posttranslational processing
• The role of chemokines in (1) receptor-mediated signal transduction, (2) angiogenesis and leukocyte migration, and (3) synergy and antagonism in cancer, infection, and autoimmunity
• Mass spectrometry and protein sequencing (proteomics) for downstream processing of body fluids to determine the chemokine profile in disease
• Metabolomics to explore the gut-kidney axis: the contribution of kidney function to the elimination of co-metabolites originating from the gut microbiome.
• Bone metabolism in renal disease.
• A personalized immune mouse model in the exploration of human autoimmune diseases and transplantation alloimmune reactivity.
• Molecular studies to evaluate the interplay between non-immune factors and immunity in kidney transplantation and the impact on graft outcome.
• Translational clinical pharmacology and pharmacogenomics of immunosuppressive drug therapy in renal transplantation: interaction of the patient profile and non-invasive biomarkers of chronic allograft dysfunction.
• Exploring the role of the protective enzyme heme oxygenase-1 in the cardiovascular phenotype of chronic kidney disease.
• Cardiovascular disease in ESRD and renal transplantation.
Stefaan Van Gool
All programs are translational with basic science and clinical research
• Tumor immunology and tumor vaccination
• Stem cell immunology
• Auto-/uncontrolled inflammation, auto-immunity and systemic disorders
• Immune deficiencies
• Allergy in childhood
• Environmental airway hyperreactivity