prof. Ward De Spiegelaere (PhD)
Principal investigator - Angiogenesis Laboratory
assistant professor - Department of Morphology, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine
Our group has three main research lines. The first research line focusses on angiogenesis, the growth of novel blood vessels, the second research line focusses canine mast cell tumours and the third research line focuses on advancing the digital PCR as a diagnostic platform.
Our research on angiogenesis focusses on a specific subtype of angiogenesis, called intussusceptive angiogenesis. This process is fundamentally different from the more known sprouting mechanism of angiogenesis. In stead of new vascular sprouts, intussusceptive angiogenesis involves the splitting of blood vessels to form new vessel branches. Intussusceptive angiogenesis is involved in tumour vascularization, hence, basic knowledge of this mechanism will aid future angiogenesis modulating treatments in oncology and beyond. Using the chicken choriallantoic membrane (CAM) model of we investigate the function of the angiopoietin-TIE2 pathway and the role of TIE2 expressing macrophages on intussusceptive angiogenesis.
Mast cell tumours are the most common form of skin tumours in dogs. The behavior of these tumours is complex and cannot be easily predicted. Using patient material from our Veterinary clinic, we investigate the basic biology of canine mast cell tumours to find possible targets for treatment and novel biomarkers which could better predict malignancy ad metastasis.
The digital Polymerase Chain Reaction (dPCR) provides a method for direct absolute quantification of nucleic acids. It has proven as an optimal tool to detect low levels of specific mutations in a high background of wild type DNA. In addition to this, dPCR allows higher levels of PCR multiplexing compared to standard quantitative PCR methods. As part of the Ghent University Digital PCR Consortium, we apply this diagnostic platform in various contexts, including oncology. Furthermore, we also work on improving data analysis methods for dPCR.
Trained as a master in Biology, I finished my PhD on angoigenesi in 2011 at the faculty of Veterinary Medicine. After my PhD, I moved to the HIV Cure Research Center of prof. Linos Vandekerckhove (Department of Internal Medicine, Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences, Ghent University) to focus on HIV reservoir research. Within this group, we pioneered the use of digital PCR in HIV research.
In 2016, I joined the department of Morphology at the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine as assistant professor. In my current position I am performing angiogenesis research, we developed several in vitro angiogenesis models and we are using the chick CAM model of angiogenesis.
I am a founding member of the Ghent University Digital PCR Consortium which performs research on digital PCR and provides specialist courses on this topic. My lab also houses a laser microdissection system, which is part of Ghent Light Microscopy (GLiM) CORE.