EDUCATION & POSITION
BSc - Biomedical Sciences, University of Antwerp, 2007
MSc - Biomedical Sciences, specialization in Neurosciences, University of Antwerp, 2009
PhD - Biomedical Sciences, University of Antwerp, 2015
postdoctoral researcher at the University of Antwerp, Laboratory Neurochemistry & Behavior, since May 2015
postdoctoral researcher at the Alzheimer Center Groningen, UMCG, Groningen (Netherlands); since May 2015
Coordinator RP-HPLC-ECD unit of Laboratory Neurochemistry & Behavior (2013-present)
Coordinator Neurobiobank of the Institute Born-Bunge (2010-present)
Dementia - Alzheimer’s Disease - Early-onset neurodegenerative disease (FTD/ALS) - Down syndrome - Parkinson’s Disease - Neuropsychiatric symptoms - Neurochemistry - Monoamines - RP-HPLC-ECD - Brain tissue - Cerebrospinal fluid - Serum
PROJECT 1: Down syndrome & Alzheimer’s disease
Alzheimer's disease (AD) and related dementias are degenerative and irreversible brain illnesses characterized by memory loss, neuropsychiatric symptoms (NPS) and an (over)activated neuroimmune response. Interestingly, people with Down syndrome (DS), a congenital disorder, face accelerated aging and are at extremely high risk to develop AD over time. Along with (sub)cortical depositions of beta-amyloid (Aβ) and hyperphosphorylated tau, the neuropathological hallmarks of AD, main monoaminergic nuclei with extensive connections across the brain undergo significant degeneration too. Strikingly, monoaminergic neurotransmitter changes could not only underlie specific NPS in AD or DS, which is important to improve psychotherapeutic options, but might also be of discriminative value to differentiate between these resembling conditions. Therefore, we aim to investigate the biological functionality of the monoaminergic neurotransmitter system in behaviorally rated AD, non-AD and DS with/without AD subjects compared to controls, related to NPS and receptor-associated, neuropathological and neuroinflammatory parameters. More specifically, levels of serotonin (5-HT), (nor)adrenaline ((N)A), dopamine (DA) and metabolites will be analyzed, the regional distribution of Aβ and tau will be assessed, 5-HT/(N)A/DA receptor binding potential differences and monoaminergic receptor mosaics will be studied, and, neuroinflammatory parameters, such as lipocalin-2, will be measured.
PROJECT 2: Frontotemporal dementia and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
Frontotemporal dementia (FTD) and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) are early-onset, invariably fatal neurodegenerative disorders that share important clinical, genetic and neuropathological commonalities. It is, however, unknown whether there might be any neurochemical similarities. Strikingly, there are no FDA- or EMA-approved drugs for FTD at present. Instead, most routinely administered drugs are based on monoamine replacement strategies which lack disease specificity. As for ALS, beneficial effects of riluzole are limited, albeit monoamine alterations have previously shown to be pivotal. Furthermore, the etiology of FTD/ALS may also be driven by the common process of neuroinflammation, followed by the (over)activation of the kynurenine pathway (KP), the major route of tryptophan (TRP) catabolism. The current project therefore wants to unravel the monoaminergic and kynurenergic pathogenesis in FTD and ALS, using brain, cerebrospinal fluid and serum samples, which may lead to the identification of novel targets of interest. Early-onset Alzheimer’s disease (AD) patients and controls will also be included for comparison and reference. More specifically, levels of serotonin, noradrenaline, dopamine and metabolites in addition to their receptor binding potentials will be analyzed, levels of TRP, kynurenine and KP metabolites will be measured, and, finally, the added discriminative value of these compounds combined with the traditional set of AD biomarkers will be evaluated.
PROJECT 3: Parkinson’s disease and Parkinson-plus syndromes
Apart from idiopathic Parkinson’s disease (PD), there are a number of so-called ‘Parkinson-plus syndromes’, that all share the presence of parkinsonism (tremor, rigidity, postural instability, bradykinesia), but, are labelled as atypical due to a variety of supplementary clinical features (e.g. dementia, cerebellar dysfunction, vertical gaze palsy, aphasia, behavioral symptoms). These syndromes include dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB), progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP), multiple system atrophy (MSA), and corticobasal degeneration (CBD). Despite the fact that the parkinsonism in general is easily recognized, differential diagnosis among these disease entities proves to be extremely challenging and mostly relies on the experience of the clinician. In addition, these invariably fatal neurodegenerative disorders lack the availability of a disease-modifying pharmacotherapy until present, so that treatment still remains purely symptomatic. In this context, we recently identified 3-methoxy-4-hydroxyphenylglycol (MHPG), the main metabolite of the monoaminergic neurotransmitter noradrenaline, as a potential marker candidate to differentiate PD (with or without mild cognitive impairment) from DLB, and, DLB from Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and other non-AD dementias. Similarly, latest studies have suggested that lipocalin-2 (LCN2), a proinflammatory mediator, and, the intermediate metabolites of the kynurenine pathway (KP), the major degradative pathway of the essential amino acid tryptophan during a neuroinflammatory state, may all represent a new generation of parkinsonian-related biomarkers. Our proposed pilot project, therefore, comprises the analyses and further verification of monoaminergic neurotransmitters and their major metabolites (including MHPG) applying RP-HPLC-ECD, as well as optimized Western blot/ELISA experiments to determine LCN2 levels. Finally, various neuroprotective and excitotoxic components of the KP will be measured by means of XLC-MS/MS. We will use frozen, postmortem brain samples in combination with in-vivo obtained serum and cerebrospinal fluid samples of AD, PD, DLB, PSP, MSA, CBD and control cases. In the end, we hope to identify subtype-specific neurochemical or -inflammatory markers which then may be routinely applied in clinics following an advanced stage of optimization.
ACTIVE ACADEMIC AND BOARD FUNCTIONS
2017-present: member of the Editorial Board of the journal Frontiers in Neuroscience, section Neurodegeneration, as a Review Editor
2016-present: member of the Advisory Board Research of the Alzheimer League Flanders npo (Alzheimer Liga Vlaanderen vzw); also secretary
PRIZES & AWARDS
Price Robert Santkin for Alzheimer’s Research 2016; awarded by the Belgian Royal Academy of Medicine, Brussels, 3 December 2016
Annual Prize 2019 in Science Communication, awarded by the Royal Flemish Academy of Belgium for Science and Arts (Koninklijke Vlaamse Academie van België voor Wetenschap en Kunsten, KVAB) and the Young Academy; award ceremony 18 November 2019, Palace of the Academies, Brussels, Belgium
GRANTS & FELLOWSHIPS
Senior Postdoctoral FWO-VITO Research Fellowship, from 1 November 2019 until 31 October 2022
Awarded Standard Grant (ID20180027) by the Alzheimer Research Foundation Belgium (SAO-FRA); €100.000,00 (from January 1st 2019 - December 31st 2020): “Monoaminergic and neuroinflammatory markers in Lewy body disease to improve differential dementia diagnosis”; awarded December 2018 (co-PI; PI: Peter P. De Deyn)
Joint Programming Initiative Neurodegenerative Diseases (JPND), Multinational research project for pathway analysis across neurodegenerative diseases, The Netherlands Organisation for Health Research and Development (ZonMw), UMCG, Groningen, Netherlands; 1 April 2018 until 31 March 2021): “The Locus Coeruleus: at the crossroad of dementia syndromes (HEROES)”; Partner 4 (Co-applicant; Main Applicant & Project Leader: Peter P. De Deyn); €397.421,40
FWO (Research Foundation-Flanders; Fonds Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek) Research Project (G053218N; 1 January 2018 until 31 December 2021): “Prediction of conversion to Alzheimer's disease in Down syndrome: a behavioural and neurochemical approach”; €423.375,00 (co-PI; PI: Peter P. De Deyn & other co-PI: D. Van Dam)
Awarded Pilot Grant (P#16003) by the Alzheimer Research Foundation Belgium (SAO-FRA); €75.000,00 (from January 1st 2017 - December 31st 2018): “Elucidating monoaminergic and kynurenergic pathway dysfunction in early-onset neurodegenerative disease”; awarded 24 November 2016 (PI)
FWO (Research Foundation-Flanders; Fonds Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek) travel grant for participating in an international conference: NMDPD congress 2016 in Ljubljana (Slovenia), 6-8 October 2016 (received 14 September 2016 – grant number: K1F3716N)
FWO (Research Foundation-Flanders; Fonds Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek) travel grant for participating in an international conference: AD/PD congress 2013 in Florence (Italy), 5-10 March 2013 (received 9 January 2013 – grant number: K113213N)
One-year fellowship of the University Research Fund (Bijzonder Onderzoeksfonds; BOF) of the University of Antwerp (1 October 2009 – 30 September 2010); PhD-project: “Neurochemical characterization of behavioral disturbances in dementia”
SELECTED PUBLICATIONS (h-index: 12.00 on 10 July 2019 (334 citations); out of a total of n=26 PubMed-cited full length internationally peer-reviewed articles with SCI-IF)
Vermeiren, Y., Le Bastard, N., Van Hemelrijck, A., Drinkenburg, W., Engelborghs, S., De Deyn, P.P. (2013) Behavioral correlates of cerebrospinal fluid amino acid and biogenic amine neurotransmitter alterations in dementia. Alzheimers Dement. 9(5): 488-498. SCI IF 2013: 17.47.
Vermeiren, Y., Van Dam, D., Aerts, T., Engelborghs, S., De Deyn, P.P. (2014) Monoaminergic neurotransmitter alterations in postmortem brain regions of depressed and aggressive patients with Alzheimer’s disease. Neurobiol. Aging. 35(12): 2691-2700. SCI IF 2014: 5.01.
Van Dam, D., Vermeiren, Y., Aerts, T., De Deyn, P.P. (2014) Novel and sensitive reversed-phase high-pressure liquid chromatography method with electrochemical detection for the simultaneous and fast determination of eight biogenic amines and metabolites in human brain tissue. J. Chromatogr. A. 1353: 28-39. SCI IF 2014: 4.17.
Dekker, A.D., Coppus, A.M.W., Vermeiren, Y., Aerts, T., van Duijn, C.M., Kremer, B.P., Naudé, P.J.W., Van Dam, D., De Deyn, P.P. (2015) Serum MHPG strongly predicts conversion to Alzheimer’s disease in behaviorally characterized subjects with Down syndrome. J. Alzheimers Dis. 43(3): 871-891. SCI IF 2015: 3.92.
Vermeiren, Y., Van Dam, D., Aerts, T., Engelborghs, S., Martin, JJ., De Deyn, P.P. (2015) The monoaminergic footprint of depression and psychosis in dementia with Lewy bodies compared to Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimers Res. Ther. 7:7, DOI 10.1186/s13195-014-0090-1. SCI IF 2015: 5.20.
Vermeiren, Y., Janssens, J., Aerts, T., Martin, J.-J., Sieben, A., Van Dam, D., De Deyn, P.P. (2016) Brain serotonergic and noradrenergic deficiencies in behavioral variant frontotemporal dementia compared to early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. J. Alzheimers Dis. 53(3): 1079-1096. SCI IF 2015: 3.92.
Vermeiren, Y., De Deyn, P.P. (2017) Targeting the norepinephrinergic neurotransmitter system in Parkinson's disease and related disorders: the locus coeruleus story. Neurochem. Int., In Press DOI: 10.1016/j.neuint.2016.11.009. SCI IF 2015: 3.39
Dekker, A.D., Vermeiren, Y., Carmona-Iragui, M., Benejam, B., Videla, L., Gelpi, E., Aerts, T., Van Dam, D., Fernández, S., Lleó, A., Videla, S., Sieben, A., Martin, J.-J., Netherlands Brain Bank, Blesa, R., Fortea, J., De Deyn, P.P. (2018) Monoaminergic impairment in Down syndrome with Alzheimer’s disease compared to early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimers Dement. (Amst). 10: 99-111. SCI IF 2016: ?.
van der Zee, S.*, Vermeiren, Y.*, Fransen, E., Van Dam, D., Aerts, T., Gerritsen, M.J., Spikman, J.M., van Laar, T., De Deyn, P.P. (2018) Monoaminergic markers across the cognitive spectrum of Lewy body disease. J. Parkinsons Dis. 8(1): 71-84. SCI IF 2016: 2.54; *joint first authors.
Vermeiren, Y., Janssens, J., Van Dam, D., De Deyn, P.P. (2018) Serotonergic dysfunction in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease: similar mechanisms, dissimilar outcomes. Front. Neurosci. 12:185. SCI IF 2016: 3.57
Willemse, E.A.J., Vermeiren, Y., Garcia-Ayllon, M.-S., Bridel, C., De Deyn, P.P., Engelborghs, S., van der Flier, W.M., Jansen, E.E.W., Lopez-Font, I.B., Mendes, V., Manadas, B., de Roeck, N., Saez-Valero, J., Struys, E.A., Vanmechelen, E., Andreasson, U., Teunissen, C.E. (2019) Pre-analytical stability of novel cerebrospinal fluid biomarkers. Clin. Chim. Acta 497: 204-211. SCI IF 2018: 2.735.
Janssens, J.*, Atmosoerodjo, S.D.*, Vermeiren, Y., Absalom, A.R., den Daas, I., De Deyn, P.P. (2019) Sampling issues of cerebrospinal fluid and plasma monoamines: investigation of the circadian rhythm and rostrocaudal concentration gradient. Neurochem. Int. 128: 154-162. SCI IF 2018: 3.994; *joint first authors.