Mission Statement

Chronic neurological diseases are negatively impacting patient’s quality of life and are imposing a huge burden to our social health care system. The mechanisms and process of disease ontogenesis are not well understood. Multi-disciplinary research teams have shown great progress in tackling these neurological diseases coping with diagnostics, treatment and follow-up by combining different techniques like neurological examination, EEG, in vivo imaging using e.g. Positron Emission Tomography (PET), Computed Tomography (CT) and Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), and histopathology (when tissue is available).

The recent advances in dedicated in vivo imaging techniques such MRI and PET for small animal brain imaging allow scientists for the first time to conduct basic research in a non-invasive and longitudinal manner, facilitating translation of knowledge from bench-side into clinical application. In vivo preclinical neuroimaging with the use of biomarkers is a rapidly emerging discipline that will enhance our understanding of neurological diseases and boost drug development. Our research group applies multimodal imaging biomarkers in vivo to follow the development of brain abnormalities during disease ontogenesis in animal models (particularly, epilepsy, schizophrenia and Alzheimer’s disease) in combination with behavioural phenotyping and histopathology. This combined approach will lead to a more profound insight in the time course and the nature of these alterations, which in its turn should provide a rationale for the implementation of novel disease-modifying strategies.

Although the group has a general interest in the development of neurological and developmental disorders including schizophrenia, our efforts are mainly dedicated to two research lines against epilepsy; one, to correctly predict epilepsy by developing clinically relevant biomarkers and second, to prevent or modify epilepsy by early treatment following an epileptogenic insult. The lab is focused on acquired epilepsies and works with rodent models including kainic acid-induced status epilepticus (KASE) as well as models of traumatic brain injury including controlled cortical injury. These are well-validated models of acquired epilepsies, which lead to the development of spontaneous recurrent seizures following a latent period. Considering the importance of inflammation in the pathogenesis of acquired epilepsies, the group utilizes for example the translocator protein (TSPO), a PET biomarker for inflammation validated both in animal models and humans. Moreover, we aim to modulate these inflammatory processes during the epileptogenesis phase to inhibit the expression of epileptic seizure following the initial epileptogenic insult. In addition, we focus on changes in extracellular matrix proteins that support neurons, such as Matrix Metalloprotease 9 (MMP9) and urokinase Plasminogen Activator (uPA), as a biomarker for acquired epilepsies. The strong skills in in vivo PET and MRI imaging techniques as well as performing continuous video-EEG monitoring in addition to behavioural tests significantly supports the research objectives of our group.

Poster Research line

Download the Poster (pdf - 2,7MB).

 

 

Contact

Head:
Prof. dr. Paul Van de Heyning
Campus Drie Eiken
D.T.498
Universiteitsplein 1
2610 Wilrijk
Belgium
Tel. 032652409
paul.vandeheyning@uantwerpen.be