Research Groups

Véronique Flamand Group

Description of the research topics

Early-life immunity presents unique features of innate and adaptive lineage development compared to adult-type immunity. It is characterized by a dominance of Th2 and regulatory T-cell adaptive immune responses that are necessary for immune tolerance against self-antigens and non-inherited maternal antigens, establishment of a stable microbiome and control of tissue damaging pro-inflammatory response. However, this particular CD4+ T-cell differentiation may also account for impaired responses to microbes and to most vaccines and increased susceptibility to allergies in early life.

We contributed to the study on this unbalanced neonatal CD4+ T-cell immunity using preclinical models of microbe infections and neonatal tolerance against alloantigens. In 2016, we discovered a precursor subset of type 1 IL-12p40 producing conventional dendritic cells, called pre-cDC1. Those antigen-presenting cells display unique regulatory properties as they may secrete IL-10 and therefore control the effector T-cell activation upon bacterial infection such as Listeria monocytogenes. Those pre-cDC1 are highly sensitive to environmental exposure able to promote its maturation.

Epidemiological studies established the link between perinatal environmental component exposures and susceptibility to immune disorders later in life. Moreover, several studies have revealed the immunostimulatory properties of probiotics, living microorganisms derived from commensal flora which, added in adequate quantities as supplements to food products, confer a health benefit to the host.

Microbial education of perinatal immunity through pre-cDC1 maturation is our major research topic. For this, different cloned strains of probiotics are being evaluated in neonates for their effects on:
  • Food infections (Listeria monocytogenes)
  • Allergy-type inflammatory reactions (Th2-type responses)
  • Respiratory tract infections (H1N1 virus)
  • Vaccine responses: activation of effector-type and memory-type T lymphocytes.
  • Intestinal microbial genome (metagenomic study by high throughput sequencing).
  • Metabolites of the digestive tract (metabolomic study by nuclear magnetic resonance and mass spectrometry) as biomarkers acting on the immune system.

Members

Principal Investigator

FLAMAND, Véronique
PhD
Véronique was trained as biologist at ULB. She was a post-doctoral fellow at N.I.H.-N.I.A.I.D. (MA, U.S.A.). She is now Professor at ULB, she is teaching Immunology. She is conducting several preclinical studies on innate and adaptive Immunity. She has a strong expertise on dendritic cells and T-cell activation in early life and in tumor models.

Postdoctoral Fellow

KÖHLER , Arnaud
PhD
Arnaud joined the lab in 2011 as a PhD student in Biomedical Science with a F.R.I.A. grant. He co-discovered the neonatal precursors of type 1 conventional dendritic cells. He developed a strong expertise on the impact of microbiota on neonatal pre-cDC1. He is now conducting preclinical research on the cross-talk between maternal microenvironment and the neonatal pre-cDC1.
02/650.95.98
TORRES , David
PhD
David is a biologist who obtained his PhD at the Université of Orléans (France). He was a post-doctoral fellow at the Institute Pasteur of Lille. In 2009, he joined the lab where he co-discovered the neonatal precursors of type 1 conventional dendritic cells. He has a strong expertise in Flow cytometry and preclinical models of microbial infections.

PhD Student

SMOUT, Justine
MSc
Justine is a biomedical scientist who started her PhD in 2016. She is funded by an ULB-ARC grant. She is working on the impact of maternal probiotic supplementation on the development of allergic inflammatory responses in neonates.
VALENTIN, Clara
MSc
Clara is a biomedical scientist who joined the lab in 2019 with an ULB-ARC grant. Her PhD thesis project is dedicated to the study of maternal probiotic supplementation on Listeria monocytogenes infection in the offspring.

Technician

DELBAUVE , Sandrine
BSc
Sandrine has a strong expertise in Molecular Biology, Immunoassays, cell culture and Biosafety. She has a broad expertise in preclinical models and Flow Cytometry.
02/650.95.98

Administrative staff

PAULART, Frédéric
Fred is our lab manager; he has multiple key roles in the institute, including maintaining and developing the technological platforms and ensuring the best environment for the researchers.
026509568
VILAIN, Laurence
026509564

Previous Lab Member

HASTIR, Jean-François
PhD
Jean-François is a biomedical scientist who joined the lab in 2015 and completed his PhD Thesis in 2020. He was funded by a Télévie grant to study the immunological mechanisms involved in Hepatic Regeneration. He is now post-doc in the "Laboratory of Myeloid Cell Biology in Tissue Homeostasis and Regeneration" of Martin Guilliams (UGent - VIB) to study the Biology of Kuppfer Cells.