Holger Gerhardt Lab

Research focus

​The establishment of a functional network of blood vessels is critical for all aspects of tissue growth in physiology and disease. Our recent work at the London Research Institute on tip cell induction, selection, sprout elongation, anastomosis and stabilization/regression unravelled important principles of vascular patterning. Our research activities at the Vascular Patterning Laboratory at the VIB Vesalius Research Center aim to translate our basic findings and tip cell biology concept into clinically relevant models of tumour angiogenesis and ischemic disease, with a particular focus on functional vascular imaging.

Current limitations in tumour angiogenesis research call for a new approach to analyse experimental tumour models and to classify angiogenic sprouting as well as blood vessel quality in human tumours. Translating our tip cell concept into the tumour angiogenesis will require establishment of imaging technology for high-resolution detection of endothelial morphology in 3D, analysis of gene expression, and monitoring of functional vessel parameters over time, including lumenization and perfusion, as well as measuring the relevant response of the tumour tissue. To this end, we will develop transgenic models for tip cell visualization in tumours and dynamic reporters for key signalling components in vascular patterning. The integrated research program between the Vascular Biology Lab at the LRI and the Vascular Patterning Lab at VIB will combine experimental and computational models of vascular patterning, endothelial cell competition assays, transcriptional profiling, transgenic loss of function models and live imaging.

It is our vision that a successful establishment of functional endothelial cell markers for vascular imaging, including tip cell characterization in tumour samples will aid the classification of human tumour angiogenesis and stimulate the refinement of anti-angiogenesis and vessel normalization therapy.


FOXO1 couples metabolic activity and growth state in the vascular endotheliumWilhelm K Happel K Eelen Guy Schoors Sandra Oellerich M. F Lim R Zimmermann B Aspalter I. M Franco C. A Boettger T Braun T Fruttiger M Rajewsky K Keller C Brüning J. C Gerhardt Holger Carmeliet Peter Potente MNATURE, 529, 216-20, 2016
Blood flow drives lumen formation by inverse membrane blebbing during angiogenesis in vivoGebala V Collins R. T Geudens Ilse Phng Li-Kun Gerhardt HolgerNATURE CELL BIOLOGY, 18, 443-50, 2016
Non-canonical Wnt signalling modulates the endothelial shear stress flow sensor in vascular remodellingFranco C. A Jones M Bernabeu M. O Vion A. C Barbacena P Fan J Mathivet Thomas Fonseca C. G Ragab A Yamaguchi T. Coveney P. V Lang R. A Gerhardt HolgereLife, 5, e07727, 2016
Formin-mediated actin polymerization at endothelial junctions is required for vessel lumen formation and stabilizationPhng Li-Kun Gebala V Bentley K Philippides A Wacker Andrin Mathivet Thomas Sauteur L Stanchi Fabio Belting H. G Affolter M Gerhardt HolgerDEVELOPMENTAL CELL, 32, 123-32, 2015
The role of differential VE-cadherin dynamics in cell rearrangement during angiogenesisBentley K Franco C. A Philippides A Blanco R. Dierkes M Gebala V Stanchi Fabio Jones M Aspalter I. M Cagna G Weström S Claesson-Welsh L Vestweber D. Gerhardt HolgerNATURE CELL BIOLOGY, 16, 309-21, 2014

Job openings


New insights in how blood vessels increase their size

21/04/2016 - ‘What are the fundamental mechanisms controlling size and shape of tubular organ systems’.

New insights in blood vessel formation

01/04/2016 - An international team of researchers under the direction of Holger Gerhardt found that blood flow drives lumen expansion during sprouting angiogenesis in vivo by inducing spherical deformations of the apical membrane of endothelial cells.

Holger Gerhardt

Holger Gerhardt

Research area(s)

Model organism(s)


​PhD: Inst. of Pathology, Tuebingen Univ., Tuebingen, Germany
Postdoc: Göteborg Univ., Göteborg, Sweden, '00-'04
Group leader at Cancer Research UK, LRI, UK, '04-ongoing
VIB group leader since November 2009

Contact Info

VIB-KU Leuven Center for Cancer BiologyO&N 4, 9e verdCampus GasthuisbergHerestraat 49, bus 912 3000 LEUVENRoute description