Medicine and Health Sciences

Public defences 2023

Attend a phd defence or find the archive of concluded doctoral research

Volatile biomarkers for malignant pleural mesothelioma: from discovery to translation and validation - Eline Janssens (13/03/2023)

Eline Janssens

  • 13 March 2023
  • Time: 4 PM - 6 PM
  • Venue: CDE, building O, aula O8
  • PhD defence
  • Supervisors: J. Van Meerbeeck, prof. K. Lamote and dr. E. Marcq

An in-depth analysis of the athlete’s heart: providing a better understanding of the structural, functional, electrical and coronary alterations in endurance athletes - Ruben De Bosscher (28/02/2023)

Ruben De Bosscher

  • 28 February 2023
  • Time: 5 PM - 7 PM
  • Venue: KU Leuven, Promotiezaal Universiteitshal, Naamsestraat 22, 3000 Leuven
  • Joint PhD defence
  • Supervisors: prof. G. Claessens (KUL) and prof. H. Heidbuchel

Towards an improved understanding of rare variants of Mycobacterium tuberculosis candidate resistance genes - Emmanuel Rivière (27/02/2023)

Emmanuel Rivière

  • 27 February 2023
  • Time: 3:30 PM - 5:30 PM
  • Venue: CDE, building R, aula R3
  • PhD defence
  • Supervisors: prof. A. Van Rie and prof. K. Laukens

Preventing and understanding the emergence of antimicrobial resistance in Neisseria gonorrhoeae - Jolein Laumen (24/02/2023)

Jolein Laumen

  • 24 February 2023
  • Time: 4 PM - 6 PM
  • Venue: Aula Janssen: Institute of Tropical Medicine, Campus Rochus: St-Rochusstraat 43 Antwerp - or online
  • PhD defence
  • Supervisors: prof. C. Kenyon, prof S. Malhotra


Gonorrhoea is the second most prevalent bacterial sexually transmittable infection (STI) worldwide. The bacterium Neisseria gonorrhoeae has developed resistance to all currently and previously recommended antibiotics used to treat it. In the first section of this thesis, we investigate the factors underpinning resistance in STI core-groups. We characterized the molecular pathways via which azithromycin resistance emerges in N. gonorrhoeae. In addition to the known macrolide resistance conferring mutations at the target binding site and the efflux pump, we discovered novel ribosomal protein mutations. We show that a population exposed to high levels of antibiotics due to frequent STI screening, has more resistant commensal Neisseria species in their throat compared to the general population. As commensal Neisseria species play an important role in the evolution of antimicrobial resistance in the pathogenic N. gonorrhoeae, including them in monitoring activities could serve as an early warning system. In the second section of this thesis, we evaluate new antibiotic sparing treatment options for gonorrhoea. Although we were unable to isolate bacteriophages effective against currently circulating N. gonorrhoeae strains, throat samples tested did exhibit antigonococcal activity. Bacteriocins, which could be promising alternatives to antibiotics and offer a novel strategy to prevent and treat gonorrhoeae infection, may be responsible for the observed lysis. Next, we assessed the consequences of using mouthwashes as alternative treatment. We report that chlorhexidine sensitivity might diminish after prolonged exposure, and even more concerning, it may cause cross-resistance to antibiotics currently used to treat gonorrhoea. Resistance to Listerine® could not be induced, but daily Listerine® use did influence the oropharyngeal microbiome. These findings imply that mouthwash applications may have unintended consequences and should be carefully considered.

Harmonic: high-risk medication in community care - Irina Dumitrescu (13/02/2023)

Irina Dumitrescu

  • 13 February 2023
  • Time: 5 PM - 7 PM
  • Venue: CDE, building O, aula O2
  • PhD defence
  • Supervisors: prof. T. Dilles en prof. M. Van de Casteele

Improving laboratory diagnosis of von Willebrand Disease - Inge Vangenechten (03/02/2023)

Inge Vangenechten

  • 3 February 2023
  • Time: 4 PM - 6 PM
  • Venue: CDE, building Q, Promotiezaal
  • PhD defence
  • Supervisors: prof. Z. Berneman and prof. A. Gadisseur

More entities, more problems? Individual-based models for infectious disease transmission - Elise Kuylen (30/01/2023)

Elise Kuylen

  • 30 January 2023
  • Time: 2 PM - 4 PM
  • Venue: CDE, building O, aula O7
  • Joint PhD defence
  • Supervisors: prof. N. Hens, prof. J. Broeckhove and prof. J. Liesenborghs (UHasselt)

Novel insights into genotype-phenotype correlations in frontotemporal lobar degeneration - Helena Gossye (27/01/2023)

Helena Gossye

  • 27 January 2023
  • Time: 5 PM - 7 PM
  • Venue: CDE, building O, aula O3
  • PhD defence
  • Supervisors: prof. C. Van Broeckhoven en prof. S. Engelborghs and prof. P. Cras

Optimizing diagnosis in drug hypersensitivity - Marie-Line Van der Poorten (27/01/2023)

Marie-Line Van der Poorten

  • 27 January 2023
  • Time: 4:30 PM - 6:30 PM
  • Venue: CDE, building Q, Promotiezaal
  • PhD defence
  • Supervisors: prof. V. Sabato, prof. D. Ebo and prof. M. Hagendorens

The clinical value of combined FDG-PET/CT imaging in response evaluation after chemoradiotherapy in patients with potentially operable locally advanced head and neck squamous cell carcinoma - Nils Helsen (16/01/2023)

Nils Helsen

  • 16 January 2023
  • Time: 5 PM - 7 PM
  • Venue: CDE, building O, aula O5
  • PhD defence
  • Supervisors: prof. S. Stroobants and prof. T. Van den Wyngaert

Targeted tolerance in multiple sclerosis: Development of transgenic T cell receptor-engineered regulatory T cells recognizing myelin-derived antigens - Ibo Janssens (13/01/2023)

Ibo Janssens

  • 13 January 2023
  • Time: 4 PM - 6 PM
  • Venue: CDE, building Q, Promotiezaal - or online (with google chrome)
  • PhD defence
  • Supervisors: prof. I. Wens and prof. N. Cools


Given the increase in global mean prevalence of MS and other autoimmune disease, and the unmet medical need, the quest for new disease-specific treatments continues. In the last decennia, the regulatory mechanisms of the immune system were exploited therapeutically to reshape immune responses and induce durable immune tolerance. Also, adaptive regulatory T cell (Treg) therapy has found its way to the clinic with dozens of clinical trials ongoing and finished. To date, researchers seek to augment clinical efficacy by using a broad range of molecular engineering methods with the first clinical trials using engineered Tregs ongoing. The general aim of this thesis was to develop a clinically safe vaccine for the treatment of MS, based on Tregs specifically targeting cells involved in the onset and progression of the disease. In addition, we provide an alternative for currently used engineering methods, which have shown pre-clinical efficacy and thus clinical potential, but also possess multiple safety concerns. In doing so, we aimed to advance the field of Treg therapy by providing in vitro proof of TCR-encoding mRNA-transfected Tregs and we are convinced that the work presented in these thesis will play its part in the road to long-lasting tolerance in MS and other autoimmune diseases.