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Entries in Translational Immunology Laboratory (110)


The 2018 Golden Pipette Award

Lab retreat 2018: the baton is being passed on, as Dr Oliver Burton, 2017 winner of the Golden Pipette, presents the trophy to Dr Emanuela Pasciuto. Our prestigious prize for the best experiment was awarded for the generation of a transgenic mouse to study brain Tregs.


Having Kids Radically Reshapes Parents’ Immune Systems


Imagine this: The love of your life is 10 inches shorter than you. This being a non-issue, the two of you get on with moving in together and starting a small brood of young humans of your own. Over time, something a little strange starts to occur. You seem to be shrinking just as your partner spurts up. When the dust settles, you maintain the height advantage but the distance between you is cut in half, down to just five inches.

This is analogous to what happens to your immune system when you co-parent. “You are completely changing the cells that constitute your immune system in a way as radical as changing your height,” says Adrian Liston, a researcher at the Translational Immunology Laboratory at VIB in Belgium.  In 2016, Liston was part of the team that documented the physical composition of co-parents’ immune cells shifting to resemble their partners’ cells. Eventually, he says, co-parents end up with more in common immunologically than identical twins.

Are these changes for better or for worse? It’s a tough question to answer, because parenting brings both benefits and deficits. More critically, though, there is no such thing as an ideal immune system — their strength is in their diversity, and between healthy individuals it’s hard to say if one setup is better than another setup. Basically, it depends entirely on the context of what you need your immune system for, and what you need it to do.

It’s clear, however, that becoming a parent changes you fundamentally. Now we know that those changes take effect at the cellular level and define the structure of your inner defense systems. There’s still more we don’t know than we do about how this works, but here are five factors that likely affect it.


 Read the full article in Fatherly.


Congratulations Dr Garcia-Perez!

Today Dr Josselyn Garcia-Perez successfully defended her PhD, and also published an outstanding first-author paper on the genetics of Multiple Sclerosis in Brain. A double congratulations to our newest alumni!


An interview with Stephanie Humblet-Baron

An interview between Dr Liesbeth Aerts and Dr Stephanie Humblet-Baron on her recent paper in JACI:


Can you summarize the significance of your findings in a few sentences for people outside your field?

Working in the field of primary immunodeficiency disorders, we described a new mouse model for severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID), recapitulating the key clinical features of SCID patients suffering of both immunodeficiency and autoimmunity (leaky SCID). Importantly our model proposed a novel efficient therapeutic approach for this disease.

What made the paper particularly outstanding?

Due to the pre-clinical evidence of a drug efficiency to treat a rare disease, patient clinical trials can be directly proposed. This treatment is already approved for human use in arthritis, so it could be rapidly be repurposed for leaky SCID patients. In addition, our model is available for further pre-clinical assay, including gene therapy.

When did you realize you were on to something interesting?

When I started to work with this model I already knew which gene was mutated (Artemis). However when I saw the mice for the first time I could tell that they were developing the exact same symptoms that we see in the clinic. I knew that other mouse models working on this gene had never seen leaky SCID symptoms, so I knew we needed to explore in depth the model. The other key moment was after treating our mice with the drug (CTLA4-Ig) – it completely blocked disease, making this a very valuable project with new therapeutic opportunities for patients.

Did the technology available at the department make a difference?

The FACS core was the major technique used for investigation this project.

A huge amount of work and energy must have gone into the paper. How did you cope with stress and doubts?

Liesbeth this is a joker question!

The project went actually quite smoothly, the hard time I got during this project was rather adjusting myself with motherhood and life in science at the same time.

What are you personally most proud of?

This work can be seen as translational medicine, with direct therapeutic benefit for the patients. The ability for better understanding the mechanism of the disease was also valuable to me.

Can you share some advice for others?

Always envision your project as a story to write and tell. When you find a new result ask what would be the next question and continue to explore it further.


Belgian Immunology Society meeting 2017

This year the Belgian Immunology Society meeting was hosted by the Translational Immunology laboratory in Leuven, with the theme "immune regulation". We had record attendence, with dedicated sessions on fundamental immunology, clinical immunology, neuroimmunology and tumour immunology. Great morning talks by Belgian scientists, an interactive poster session, and an afternoon keynote session with outstanding presentations from Anne Puel (INSERM, France), Denise Fitzegerald (QUB, UK), Gabriele Bergers (VIB), Anne Dejean (Toulouse, France) and Gitta Stockinger (Crick Institute, UK). I certainly learned a lot of immunology on the day!

Many thanks to our scientific coordinators and session chairs: Susan Schlenner (KUL), Niels Hellings (Hasselt), Erika Van Nieuwenhove (UZ Leuven) and Abhishek Garg (KUL). The meeting would not have been such a success without Wim Cockx, Caroline Lenaerts and all the volunteers from the lab who helped out on the day.

Great support from our sponsors made it all happen:

Platinum sponsor: BD Bioscience

Silver sponsors: ThermoFisher, Stem Cell Technologies, Sanbio, BioLegend, Bioconnect, Analis, Miltenyi Biotech

Bronze sponsors: VWR, biotechne

Presentation of the EFIS-IL lecture award to Prof Gitta Stockinger (Crick Institute, UK) by BIS President Oberdan Leo. 


Jobs, jobs, jobs!

Two post-doc positions now open in immunology, plus a technician position in the FACS Core, and very soon we will be opening up a new position in endocrinology!



Will pancreatic cancer be the next target for immunotherapy?

Pancreatic cancer is one of the scariest diagnoses a patient can receive. Even though it is a rare disease, with only 1 in 100 people developing it, it is a rapid killer - even with the best medical attention the median survival rate is less than 6 months.

In a study just published this week in Oncotarget, our laboratory looked at the relationship between autoimmunity of the pancreas and pancreatic cancer. We found that mice prone to pancreatic autoimmunity develop greater levels of immune infiltration around tumours in the pancreas, and this substantially slowed the growth of the tumour.

The reason why this result is so important is that it means our immune system can actually combat pancreatic cancer, if we can just drive an autoimmune reaction against the tumour. Here we used genetics to create an autoimmune-prone mouse, but immune checkpoint blockade therapies can create exactly the same pro-autoimmune response in patients. Our results therefore suggest that there is an effective latent response against pancreatic cancer that is waiting to be unleashed by immune checkpoint inhibitors. 

Original article: Dooley et al, "NOD mice, susceptible to pancreatic autoimmunity, demonstrate delayed growth of pancreatic cancer". Oncotarget, 8(46):80167



Science Minds: Prof Susan Schlenner

This interview of Prof Susan Schlenner by Science Minds is well worth listening to, for a fascinating discussion of mentorship and the ups and downs of a successful career in science.

You can listen to it on the website here, or subscribe to Science Minds podcast through iTunes.


And the winner is...

From our lab retreat last week, the winner of the Golden Pipette Award is... Dr Oliver Burton!

Look at the separation between Foxp3 and IL-2 - it takes golden hands to get such results when working with a cytokine and a transcription factor, let alone when running them as part of a 24 colour panel!


Liston lab does happy hour!

It is time for the Liston lab to organise the VIB happy hour, so we have picked Oktoberfest as our theme!

Disclaimer: the Translational Immunology laboratory does not condone pipetting while drunk, or the wearing of lederhosen in the lab