prof. Ward De Spiegelaere (PhD)
Principal investigator - Angiogenesis Laboratory
assistant professor - Department of Morphology, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine
Our group performs research on angiogenesis, which includes blood vessel growth and the stabilization of blood vessels. Tumors rely on the growth of blood vessels to support their need for nutrients and oxygen, however, most tumors have an aberrant and leaky vasculature. The aberrant tumor vasculature hampers an efficient penetration of antitumor drugs. Moreover, the leaky nature of the vasculature facilitates metastatic cells to enter the blood stream and spread throughout the body.
Our research focusses on a specific subtype of angiogenesis, called intussusceptive angiogenesis, by which a blood vessel splits itself into two new blood vessels. Intussusceptive angiogenesis does not affect the blood flow and maintains the barrier property of the vasculature. Hence, we believe that methods to promote intussuceptive angiogenesis in tumors will normalize the tumor vasculature, inhibit metastasis and enable a better drug penetration.
Within the framework of intussusceptive angiogenesis, we mainly focus on the angiopoietin-TIE2 pathway and the role of TIE2 expressing macrophages on intussusceptive angiogenesis. In addition to this, we also perform research on the effect of canine mast cell tumors on tumor angiogenesis. For this research we use the chicken choriallantoic membrane (CAM) model of angiogenesis as well as in vitro models of angiogenesis in combination with various imaging methods such as fluorescence and electron microscopy.
Trained as a master in Biology, I finished my PhD in 2011 at the faculty of Veterinary Medicine. My PhD research focused on angiogenesis in the developing kidney. For this research I combined immunohistochemistry, with electron microscopy and laser capture microdissection for gene expression quantification by RT-qPCR.
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. During this 5 years post-doctoral fellowship I focused on developing novel strategies to quantify viral HIV reservoirs in HIV infected patients and on strategies to study HIV latency in vitro with the goal to eliminate this persistent reservoir and find an HIV cure. The group pioneered the use of digital PCR in HIV research and is performing several experimental treatment stop studies.
I joined the department of Morphology as assistant professor with the goal to perform research on angiogenesis.
In my current position I am performing angiogenesis research, we have developed several in vitro angiogenesis models and we are using the chick CAM model of angiogenesis.
In addition to this we use laser microdissection to investigate gene expression at the single cell level in tissue sections.