Research Groups

Valérie Wittamer Group

Description of the research topics

Our research aims at providing novel insights into the basic biology of microglia, the resident immune cells of the central nervous system. In particular, we are interested in how the microglial network is established during vertebrate development, and subsequently maintained throughout life. Understanding these key aspects of microglia biology are of major importance since microglia are implicated in the pathology of most, if not all neurological disorders, and are now considered as major putative targets for therapeutic intervention in the field of neuroinflammation.

Our laboratory takes advantage of the strenghts of the zebrafish model system to address microglia development in ways not possible in other vertebrates. Because the first steps of microglia ontogeny occur early during embryogenesis, transparent transgenic zebrafish embryos offer great opportunities to characterize these processes in a non invasive way.

Our program relies on targeted genome editing gene manipulation using the TALEN and CRISPR technologies to manipulate microglia gene functions in vivo and examine the subsequent effects on microglia biology. We also perform live imaging analyses on fluorescent transgenic embryos to directly observe the behavior of microglial cells in vivo, as they interact in their microenvironment. In the long run, we also plan to develop zebrafish models of neurodegeneration and cancer that should prove instrumental for the analysis of microglia contribution in pathology and disease.

Members

Principal Investigator

WITTAMER , Valérie
PhD
Valérie performed her graduate work in the laboratory of Marc Parmentier at Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB) where she identified chemerin as the endogenous ligand of the orphan G protein-coupled receptor ChemR23. She then joined the laboratory of David Traver at University of California at San Diego (UCSD) where she developed novel zebrafish transgenic lines that provided new insights into the cellular biology of the zebrafish hematopoietic system. She started her own laboratory in 2014.

Postdoctoral Fellow

ROVIRA, Mireia
PhD
Mireia obtained her PhD in the laboratory of Dr. Josep Planas at the University of Barcelona in 2016. In 2017 she joined the Evolutive Immunology research group led by Dr. Nerea Roher at the Biotechnology and Biomedicine Institute in a collaborative project with Dr. María Isabel Pividori’s laboratory at the Autonomous University of Barcelona (UAB), to develop fish biosensors. Since 2018, she joined our lab as a postdoctoral researcher to work on microglia development and neuroregeneration.

PhD Student

DI RUGGIERO, Elodie
MSc
Elodie received her Master degree in Biochemistry and molecular and cellular biology from the Université libre de Bruxelles (ULB) in 2013. Elodie joined our laboratory in October 2014 as a PhD research fellow of the FNRS/FRIA. She is studying the implication of chemerin, a chemoattractant agent, in cancer biology.
FERRERO, Giuliano
MSc
Giuliano earned his master’s degree in Medical Biotechnology from the University of Turin. Awarded a UNI (ULB Neuroscience Institute) PhD fellowship, he joined our lab in 2015. Funded by an Aspirant FNRS grant, he is currently working on microglia development.
MISEROCCHI, Magali
MSc
Magali obtained her bachelor degree in biomedical science at Université Libre de Bruxelles in 2016. She’s currently doing her thesis in our lab.
MONTANARI, Alice
MSc
Alice obtained her Master degree in Experimental and Applied Biology from the University of Modena e Reggio Emilia (UNIMORE) in July 2019. She joined our laboratory in November 2019 as a PhD student.
POZO GOMEZ, Jennifer
MSc
Jennifer obtained her Master degree in Biological Medicine from the Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB) in June 2017. She joined our laboratory in October 2017 as a PhD student. Jennifer is studying the role of chemerin in tumorigenesis.

Technician

CARON, Marianne
BSc
Marianne obtained her bachelor degree in biotechnologie at “Haute Ecole Provinciale de Hainaut” (HEPH Condorcet, Ath) in june 2014. She joined the laboratory in early 2015 as our Lab Manager.