Chronic constipation is a major worldwide health problem with limited therapeutic options, impairing quality of life and causing considerable health-care costs. Changes in gut motility are often associated with indications of inflammation. Several studies suggest a link between chronic constipation and colorectal cancer, also known as colon cancer, which is one of the most commonly diagnosed cancers worldwide. Moreover, these pathologies share some underlying causative mechanisms, such as microbial dysbiosis, immune activation, NF-kB signaling and inflammation. Using a new and unique genetic mouse model for slow-transit constipation, I will further investigate the molecular and cellular mechanisms that control constipation and evaluate if constipation can (in)directly lead to or increase the risk for colorectal cancer. My research is focused on intestinal epithelial cell signaling, in particular the regulation of hormone-secreting enteroendocrine cells (EEC). A better understanding of the role of EECs in constipation and colorectal cancer can contribute to the identification of novel therapeutic targets. In my research, I make use of several in vitro cell models such as colon organoids, and the mouse as in vivo model.
Led by a strong fascination for immunity and inflammation, I decided to major in Biomedical biotechnology and graduated summa cum laude in 2021. For my Master Thesis, I studied the role of ZFHX3 during the development of intellectual disability at the Center for Medical Genetics Ghent (CMGG). I decided to pursue a career in research by starting a PhD (October 2021) at the lab of Prof. dr. Beyaert under the guidance of Dr. Afonina, who both have received international recognition for their work in dissecting different immune signaling pathways.