dr. Thomas Naert (PhD)

CRIG member
Thomas Naert

Postdoctoral researcher – Lab Developmental Biology and Human Disease Modeling, Department of Biomedical Molecular Biology, Ghent University, B-9052 Ghent, Belgium
Principal investigator: prof. Kris Vleminckx (PhD) 


Research focus

My research focuses on using CRISPR/Cas9 for cancer modeling and drug discovery in Xenopus, an innovative approach I pioneered for studying various types of cancer. During my PhD, I successfully established the first CRISPR/Cas9-mediated cancer model in Xenopus for retinoblastoma. That work laid the foundation for extending these models to other cancers, including glioblastoma and neuroendocrine pancreatic tumors, and particularly on desmoid tumors. A notable contribution in this area was the identification of EZH2 as a novel therapeutic target for desmoid tumors through multiplex CRISPR/Cas9 experiments.

My postdoctoral experience at the University of Zurich expanded my interests towards light-sheet microscopy (LSM), where I was involved in developing new microscopy platforms. I am further interested in large tissue staining, clearing, and deep learning analysis of extensive LSM datasets.

Current interests focus on utilizing LSM to explore the desmoid tumor microenvironment in three dimensions, providing new spatial insights. Such multidisciplinary approach integrates elements of biology, chemistry, optics, engineering, and computer science.  


Thomas Naert obtained his Ph.D. in Biochemistry/Biotechnology from Ghent University, Belgium, in 2019 funded by a strategic basic research fellowship from the IWT (now called FWO). From 2020 to 2023, he conducted research with a Marie Skłodowska-Curie postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Zurich in the laboratory of Professor Lienkamp. In 2024, he returned to Belgium on a University of Ghent BOF senior post-doctoral fellowship. Throughout his career, Dr. Naert has been recognized with several awards, including the International Xenopus Board John Gurdon Award and the Belgian Society for Cell and Developmental Biology PhD Excellence Award. 

Key publications

  • "CRISPR-SID: Identifying EZH2 as a druggable target for desmoid tumors via in vivo dependency mapping”. PNAS, 2021. (PMID: 34789568)
  • "RBL1 (p107) functions as tumor suppressor in glioblastoma and small-cell pancreatic neuroendocrine carcinoma in Xenopus tropicalis". Oncogene, 2019. (PMID: 32001819)
  • "CRISPR/Cas9 mediated knockout of rb1 and rbl1 leads to rapid and penetrant retinoblastoma development in Xenopus tropicalis". Scientific Reports, 2016. (PMID: 27739525)
  • ”Mutations in the histone methyltransferase Ezh2 drive context-dependent leukemia in Xenopus tropicalis”. Leukemia, 2023. (PMID: 37794102)
  • "The Benchtop mesoSPIM: a next-generation open-source light-sheet microscope for large cleared samples". Under Revision Nat. Comm., BioRxiv, 2023 pre-print (indexed on pubmed at PMID: 38168219)
  • "Reflective multi-immersion microscope objectives inspired by the Schmidt telescope". Nature Biotechnology, 2023. (PMID: 36997681)
  • "Maximizing CRISPR/Cas9 phenotype penetrance using predictive modeling of editing outcomes in Xenopus and zebrafish embryos". Scientific Reports 2020. (PMID: 32887910)
  • "R-spondin2 inhibition of rnf43/znrf3 governs limb development independently of lgr4/5/6. ". Nature, 2018. (PMID: 29769720)
  • "TALEN-mediated apc mutation in Xenopus tropicalis phenocopies familial adenomatous polyposis.”. Oncoscience, 2015. (PMID: 26097888)

Contact & links

  • VIB-IRC, Lab of Developmental Biology, Department of Biomedical Molecular Biology, Ghent University, Technologiepark 71, 9052 Ghent
  • Vleminckx lab
  • Google Scholar
  • Wordpress
  • X (former Twitter)
  • Thomas Naert is interested to receive invitations for presentations or talks