Description of the research topicsThe morbidity and mortality associated with number of infectious and non-infectious inflammatory diseases differ between men and women. While males are more susceptible to infection-induced acute inflammatory diseases, females are more vulnerable to chronic inflammatory diseases such as autoimmune diseases, asthma and cystic fibrosis. Clinical investigations in pre-pubertal infants indicate that sexual hormones cannot fully explain such gender bias and that sex specific genetic architecture may play a prominent role.
The objective of our research is to depict biological markers and molecular signatures associated with acute or chronic inflammation in infectious and non-infectious diseases with taking into account gender as a biological variable to gain insight into physiopathological processes underlying distinct outcomes in males and females.
Our current clinical and experimental studies aim at deciphering the implication of chromosome X-linked immune genes in gender bias of the modulation of the innate inflammatory response in acute (infection-induced pneumonia model) and chronic (cystic fibrosis model) inflammatory settings. We try to characterize cellular and molecular mechanisms at work with particular focus on the potent role of microRNAs, a group of small non-coding RNA that play a key role in the regulation of various biological processes including inflammation. To this end, we perform clinical investigations in close collaboration with the pulmonology service (Dr N Lefèvre, Dr L Hanssens, Dr G Casimir) of the Queen Fabiola University Children’s Hospital (HUDERF). In parallel, we develop experimental studies of infection and inflammation in mice to test our hypothesis in collaboration with Dr M Romano and Dr O Denis (Sciensano).
We also carry out a cooperation project financed by the ARES (Académie de Recherche et d’Enseignement Supérieur) between Belgium and Morocco involving ULB and universities of Casablanca (UH2 and UM6), and Pasteur institute of Casablanca. The aim of the project is to support local prospective microbiological and immunological investigations on major infectious diseases affecting mother-infant pair for implementing a global control strategy.