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Research groups

The ULB Center for Diabetes Research has currently 3 research groups.

Type 1 diabetes group

Prof. Décio L. Eizirik, M.D. Ph.D., Dr. Alessandra Kupper Cardozo, Ph.D. and Prof André Herchuelz, M.D. Ph.D. study the mechanisms of pancreatic beta cell dysfunction and death in type 1 diabetes, aiming to develop novel alternatives to protect beta cells in early diabetes.
Contact: Prof. Décio L. Eizirik deizirik [at] ulb.ac.be.

The principal research topics are :

  • Study of the cross-talk between beta cells and the immune system leading to insulitis.
  • Study of the molecular mechanisms by which viral infections trigger beta cell apoptosis and local inflammation.
  • Use of a systems biology approach to define the gene networks regulating beta cell fate following exposure to cytokines or viral products.
  • Characterization of the molecular mechanisms regulating cytokine-induced apoptosis, with focus on endoplasmatic reticulum stress and the mitochondrial pathways of apoptosis.
  • Characterization of the role of type 1 diabetes genes at the beta cell level.
  • The role of calcium in beta cell function and survival.

Type 2 diabetes group

Dr. Miriam Cnop, M.D. Ph.D., Dr. Laurence Ladrière, Ph.D. and Dr. Françoise Fery, M.D., Ph.D. study the role and mechanisms of pancreatic beta cell dysfunction and apoptosis in the pathogenesis of monogenic and type 2 diabetes, in order to develop novel strategies to improve beta cell function and mass.
Contact: Dr. Miriam Cnop mcnop [at] ulb.ac.be.

The principle research topics are :

  • The study of the mechanisms of beta cell demise caused by adipocyte-derived factors in type 2 diabetes. The Cnop group has identified endoplasmic reticulum stress as an important cellular response contributing to free fatty acid-induced beta cell apoptosis. Using small molecules and RNA interference strategies to modulate the endoplasmic reticulum stress response, the Cnop group is elucidating the signal transduction by which free fatty acids induce beta cell apoptosis and identifying interesting therapeutic targets for the protection of beta cells in type 2 diabetes.
  • The pathogenesis of diabetes in Friedreich's ataxia, where mitochondrial dysfunction leads to beta cell demise and of other monogenic forms of diabetes.

Virology group

Dr. Anne Op De Beeck, Ph.D. studies the mechanism of pancreatic cell death and permissivity during viral infection.
Contact: Dr. Anne Op De Beeck Anne.Op.De.Beeck [at] ulb.ac.be.

The principle research topics are :

  • Study of the molecular mechanisms by which viral infections trigger beta cell apoptosis and local inflammation.
  • Characterization of the molecular mechanisms controlling the permissivity of beta cells to viral infections.
  • Analysis of endoplasmic reticulum stress associated to viral infections.