Department of Development and Regeneration
About the department
The Department of Development and Regeneration combines academicians involved in embryology and stem cell biology, human reproduction and sexuality, pre- and postnatal development and the wider scope of regenerative medicine, including orthopedics and trauma surgery, physical therapy, rheumatology, urologic, gynecologic and abdominal surgeons.
This department specifically aims
- to integrate the multi-disciplinary basic, translational and clinical medical research and become an effective platform for conducting premier bench to bed and bed to bench research;
- to develop tertiary and investigational health care, and provide patients with innovative therapies including cell-based therapies and tissue engineered solutions;
- to promote health care services and public health within a broader and actual socio-economic context;
- to offer top education and train scientists in developmental and regenerative medicine and as such prepare a new generation of researchers and clinicians for a career in these disciplines as well as their future role in society and the scientific community.
The fundamental goal of this research unit is to understand the molecular basis of cell identity, and how an identity can be maintained or acquired in vivo and also in vitro. The progressive changes from the totipotent zygote to pluripotent stem cells in the vertebrate embryo and subsequently germ-layer and tissue-specific stem/progenitor cells, and ultimately the generation of mature cells and perfectly shaped tissues and organs are studied by embryologists in our department. Stem cell researchers study self-renewal, maintenance and gradual loss of potency, which accompanies differentiation of embryonic stem cells (ESCs) as well as tissue-specific adult stem cells. They also study the reverse process, i.e. gain of potency, by re-programming terminally differentiated cells into pluripotent cells (iPSCs). Recently, mechanisms inducing alteration of cell fate have also been identified. We anticipate the already visible merging of the expertise of both researcher populations within this research unit to intensify and result in more joint projects on important cell types and on basic and/or medically relevant processes in vitro and in vivo. The research unit benefits from solid resources from all the funding levels and from several P.I.-driven collaborations, including as co-members of intra-KU Leuven consortia, and that span studies from early mouse embryogenesis to pluripotent stem cells, and adult tissue stem cells and their niches and, more recently, tissue/organ repair and deficiency.
The overall aims of this basic science research unit are:
- to develop a better understanding of the earliest differentiation steps in embryology, both in vivo and in cell culture, at the individual gene/protein level, but also using carefully selected systems biology type of projects;
- to assess the role of stem cells in endogenous regeneration of tissue as well as for transplantation (e.g. in the brain, pituitary, skeletal and cardiac muscle, hematopoietic system);
- to use stem cells for drug discovery purposes and toxicity studies;
- to develop human models of disease (via iPSC generation for diseases).
This group is partly embedded in the Stamcel Instituut Leuven (SCIL).
The Skeletal Biology and Engineering Research Center focuses its research on the understanding of the cellular and molecular basis of skeletal tissue formation, remodeling and repair encompassing processes involved in development, growth, health and disease. Furthermore, the Center aims to develop regenerative treatments for skeletal disorders in particular for cartilage, bone and joint repair. In addition to the stimulation of endogenous repair pathways and mechanisms, these approaches include the manufacturing of the novel class of Advanced Therapeutic Medicinal Products, and this in full integration with clinicians and engineers.
To accomplish this goal, five research lines have been set up within the Center and are working in synergy:
- Laboratory for Developmental and Stem Cell Biology
- Laboratory for Tissue Homeostasis and Disease
- Laboratory for Skeletal Cell Biology and Physiology
- Laboratory for Tissue Engineering
- Clinical Research Program
The Skeletal Biology and Engineering Research Center (SBE) has established a unique platform and collaborative setting bringing together basic and translational biomedical scientists, engineers and expert clinicians, with the ambition to be leaders in joint and skeletal research. Thereby the Skeletal Biology and Engineering Research Center exemplifies the integrated and translational nature of research within the Department of Development and Regeneration, from bedside to bench, and back.
This research cluster consists of chiefly clinical academicians with a very broad spectrum of clinical expertise and translational researchers – doing bed-to-bench, problem-solving research. They include Neonatology & Pediatrics, Gynecology & Obstetrics, Urology, Abdominal Surgery, Physical Therapy, Orthopedic and Trauma Surgery, i.e. the clinical departments dealing with developmental, reproductive and (a number of) degenerative pathologies.
The following research entities are currently active:
- Development & Reproduction
- Maternal and Fetal Medicine
- Neonatal and Perinatal Pharmacology
- Reproductive Medicine
- Regeneration & Reconstructive Surgery
- Abdominal Surgery
- Plastic Surgery
- Institute for Orthopaedic Research and Training (IORT)
- Trauma Surgery
- Physical Medicine
- Basic Science: TRP Channels in reproductive medicine
- Clinical Research Unit and Prediction Models
Training and education
The Department of Development and Regeneration has a major involvement in classroom lectures for the medical, biomedical, pharmaceutical and kinesiology students (both bachelor and master) as well as the full program of the Institute for Family and Sexuality Studies. Also included in the portfolio are practical courses, bed-side teaching and specific topic-based research tracks. Many senior researchers are also involved in the PhD training program and even outside the university in the schools for higher education in the KU Leuven Association (e.g. nurses, laboratory technicians…).
(de)differentiation, epigenetics, morphogens, mouse models, bone, cartilage, synovium, endometrium, HPV, TRP channels, adiponectin, calcineurin-inhibitor, overactive bladder, polytomous models, gene therapy, cell therapy, skeletal muscle, lung, amniotic fluid, tissue engineering, living implants, arthroplasty, biomaterials, fetal diagnosis, fetal growth, fetal therapy, perinatology, renal regeneration, congenital renal disorders, pediatric urology, pediatric transplantation, reproductive medicine, benign gynecology, family and sexual studies, pelvic floor dysfunction, erectile dysfunction, arthritis, pediatric neuromuscular diseases, locomotor system