dr. Thibaut Van Acker (PhD)

CRIG member
Thibaut Van Acker

Post-doctoral fellow – Atomic and Mass Spectrometry (A&MS) research unit
Principal investigator: prof. Frank Vanhaecke (PhD)


Research focus

My research is focused on the development of analytical methodology for the determination and mapping of trace metals and metalloids in biological tissues, tumor spheroids and single cells via laser ablation-inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry (LA-ICP-MS) and the application of these methods in interdisciplinary contexts.
Over the last years, the A&MS research unit has realized significant LA-ICP-MS software and hardware developments and has been exploiting the enhanced instrumental capabilities for elemental mapping applications at high spatial resolution in biomedical contexts. Untargeted bio-imaging applications are mainly focused on revealing the 2-dimensional or 3-dimensional distribution of the metallome, i.e. the entirety of metals and metalloids in biological tissues and cells, and metal-based anticancer drugs, e.g., cisplatin, oxaliplatin and carboplatin. Quantitative spatial information provides profound insights into the penetration depth of metal-based complexes in tumor tissue and multi-cellular tumor spheroids. Single-cell LA-ICP-MS methodology has been developed to quantify the cellular uptake of newly developed metal-based complexes which can serve as a tool to evaluate drug candidates during pre-clinical stages. LA-ICP-MS can also be used to study the fate of metal-based nanoparticle drug carriers and moreover,  targeted multiplexed proteomic bio-imaging can be performed via the combined use of metal-conjugated antibodies.
In the contexts described above, the A&MS research unit is cooperating with departments of the Ghent University Hospital, the Leiden University Medical Centre, Maastricht University and Janssen Pharmaceutica.


In 2015, I obtained my Master of Science degree in Bioscience Engineering and joined the Atomic & Mass Spectrometry – A&MS research unit of Ghent University, led by Prof. Dr. Frank Vanhaecke, as PhD student. My research was focused on exploring the capabilities of laser ablation-ICP-mass spectrometry (LA-ICP-MS) imaging for elemental bio-imaging applications in an interdisciplinary context.
In 2019, I obtained my PhD degree in Chemistry at Ghent University and currently, I am working as a postdoctoral researcher in the A&MS research unit. My current research is focused on the fundamentals of laser-matter interactions and further expanding the capabilities of bio-imaging by developing analytical methodology and workflows for the combined use of elemental and molecular mapping techniques. So far, my research has resulted in 15 publications in peer-reviewed journals (110 citations & h-factor = 7 according to ISI’s Web of Science).

Key publications

  • ‘High-resolution laser ablation-inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry imaging of cisplatin-induced nephrotoxic side effects’. Analytica Chimica Acta, 2016. (PMID: 27968712)
  • ‘Fast high-resolution laser ablation-inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry imaging of the distribution of platinum-based anticancer compounds in multicellular tumor spheroids’. Analytical Chemistry, 2017. (PMID: 29105484)
  • ‘Laser ablation-inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry for quantitative mapping of the copper distribution in liver tissue sections from mice with liver disease induced by common bile duct ligation’. Journal of Analytical Atomic Spectrometry, 2017.
  • ‘High-resolution imaging and single-cell analysis via laser ablation-inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry for the determination of membranous receptor expression levels in breast cancer cell lines using receptor-specific hybrid tracers’. Analytica Chimica Acta, 2019. (PMID: 31159938)
  • ‘Laser ablation-tandem ICP-mass spectrometry (LA-ICP-MS/MS) imaging of iron oxide nanoparticles in Ca-rich gelatin microspheres’. Journal of Analytical Atomic Spectrometry, 2019.
  • ‘Three-dimensional reconstruction of the distribution of elemental tags in single cells using laser ablation ICP-mass spectrometry via registration approaches’. Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry, 2019. (PMID: 30790022)
  • ‘Interactions of cisplatin and daunorubicin at the chromatin level’. Scientific Reports, 2020. (PMID: 31980698)

Contact & links

  • Lab address: Atomic & Mass Spectrometry – A&MS research unit, Ghent University, Department of Chemistry, Campus Sterre, Krijgslaan 281-S12, 9000 Gent
  • LinkedIn 
  • Google Scholar 
  • ResearchGate 
  • The A&MS research unit provides services for elemental bio-imaging via LA-ICP-MS and complementary solution analysis.
  • Thibaut Van Acker is interested to receive invitations for presentations or talks