Two new research projects for Biopark researchers

September 26th 2018

The Actions de Recherche Concertée (ARC, collective research initiatives) programme provides key support to fundamental research within the Fédération Wallonie-Bruxelles. For the last call for proposals, 18 projects are about to start at ULB, including two conducted by Biopark researchers.

Isolate persister bacteria

The project "Single-cell analysis of bacterial persistence" is led by Laurence Van Melderen (Cellular and Molecular Microbiology Laboratory, Molecular Biology Department, IBMM). Persistence is a phenomenon enabling individual bacterial cells to tolerate antibiotics. This reversible phenomenon occurs at very low frequency in bacterial populations, making observation and analysis of persister cells quite challenging.
This research project will analyse persistence at the single-cell level: in collaboration with a team from ULB’s École Polytechnique de Bruxelles, researchers will develop in-house microfluidic chips in order to design “traps” of the size of bacteria. These chips will then be coupled to fluorescence microscopy, allowing to sort persister cells. Researchers will then proceed to their molecular characterization. This approach will allow researchers to decipher the molecular mechanisms triggering the differentiation of elusive persister cells from the vast majority of sensitive cells.

Probiotics and neonatal immunity

The ontogeny of the immune system is particularly sensitive during the neonatal period. Gut microbiota and related probiotics – bacteria naturally present in the organism – have an important impact on immune cell development and function. They are involved in the setting of the threshold for immune responses, that is the moment when the immune process is triggered. This is an important phenomenon to prevent the development of pathologies such as allergic asthma or pulmonary infections.
The research project "Shaping neonatal immunity by maternal administration of probiotics" will study the impact of probiotics on innate neonatal immunity, the immediate body defences against pathogens. Supported by Véronique Flamand (Institute for Medical Immunology, IMI), the project associates David Vermijlen’s team at ULB’s Faculty of Pharmacy. Researchers hypothesize that maternal administration of probiotics and the metabolites they produce regulate, in the offspring, the function of innate immune cells, such as conventional dendritic cells and gamma-delta T cells.