How the Flemish Government sets the example in research volunteering

18 March 2018
​To examine diseases such as dementia, Alzheimer’s, diabetes and Parkinson’s, every volunteer counts – not in the least when that volunteer is Philippe Muyters, Flemish Minister for Work, Economy, Innovation and Sports. Together with one hundred civil servants, he participated in two large-scale VIB studies.

“The vital work VIB scientists deliver every day puts Flanders on the map as an innovative biotech region”, Muyters proudly says. “All too often, however, we forget how much these scientists need our help. Yet, lending a hand is easy: sending in samples or participating in small tests will make a difference. That’s why the Government of Flanders actively chips in – hoping Flanders’ citizens will follow their lead.”

​A gut flora feeling 
The human body hosts 100 trillion bacteria – over one thousand times the number of people on earth. Most of these species live in our intestines, protecting us from various diseases. Jeroen Raes (VIB-KU Leuven Center for Microbiology) plays a pioneering part in unraveling the essential role of these gut flora. “Our research hinges on the engagement of volunteers donating stool samples. With the Flemish Gut Flora Project, we aim to collect and analyze at least five thousand stool samples. The more people join our quest, the more
insight we gain into the relationship between gut bacteria and health.”

The growing problem of alzheimer’s
Muyters and the Flemish civil servants also participated in a study by Christine Van Broeckhoven (VIB-Antwerp Center for Molecular Neurology) on dementia. The condition is taking on pandemic proportions: the 47 million patients worldwide today are expected to rise to 131.5 million by 2050. In Flanders-Belgium, in the age group 60-64 years, 1% run the risk of dementia, a number that doubles every five years. But treatment for the disease is yet to be found. “To properly investigate how dementia works, we need data from both patients and healthy people”, Christine explains. “Citizens donating blood samples or joining memory tests are invaluable to our research.”

“Many of these studies stand or fall by the cooperation from citizens. With very little time or effort, you can help advance science and society as a whole.” - Philippe Muyters
More info on how to take part can be found at www.vib.be/ikwerkmee .

Go back to the overview on 'Microbiology'


Philippe Muyters, Johan Hanssens, Jo Bury and Christine Van Broeckhoven