Global research efforts have yielded the sequence of the entire human genome. Even though ‘only’ ~ 35,000 genes have been identified, many of these have numerous transcripts encoding several proteins, which can be further modified post-translationally. Consequently, over 100,000 proteins are estimated to determine our health and diseases.
One of the great challenges in biomedical research for the next decade is now to unravel the function and interaction of these disease candidate genes and to determine how their function is influenced by modifier genes and environmental factors. This would allow us to understand the pathogenetic role of these genes in common medically important disorders, to identify novel diagnostic tools and to develop safer and more effective treatments.
Our lab, called the 'Laboratory of Angiogenesis and Neurovascular Link', uses the following genetic techniques to perform the proposed ‘functional genomics’ studies:
By studying biological responses in genetically manipulated mice overexpressing defined genes, lacking defined genes or carrying mutagenized genes, it is possible to achieve novel insights into the role and relevance of genes in vivo. The transgenic animals thus obtained may represent models of human disease, which then can be used for the evaluation of new genetic or other therapeutic strategies. Furthermore, the gene-deficient or mutant mice and the tissues or cell lines derived from them provide unique material for gene profiling in order to identify and characterize novel genes involved in specific processes. Alternatively, the discovery of unexpected novel phenotypes associated with a specific knockout or mutation may implicate a previously unrecognized involvement of a particular gene in a given disorder.
Most of the common diseases are complex and multi-factorial in nature. Due to the labor-intensive and time-consuming character of mouse transgene technology, the mouse model is less suited for simultaneous analysis of gene products interacting with each other, and limited to the analysis of a restricted number of genes. Semi-high throughput analysis of genetic pathways or gene interactions can, however, be performed in the zebrafish. Indeed, due to its small size, easy breeding, short life-span, embryo transparency and amenability to morpholino knock-down of gene expression, the zebrafish constitutes a unique and powerful model.
It is essential to confirm that the findings obtained in mouse and zebrafish genetics are valuable for human health. This can, in part, be achieved by performing association or mutational studies in affected humans. In addition, we will use genetic linkage, in combination with zebrafish genetics, to positionally clone and identify novel disease candidate genes.
Our research is focused on two major areas of medical health problems: cardiovascular and neurological.
We study the molecular basis of cardiovascular disorders including myocardial infarction, stroke, atherosclerosis, thrombosis, aneurysms, restenosis, heart failure, arrhythmias, etc. We especially study the role of fibrinolytic and matrix metalloproteinases and coagulation proteinases. A major focus has been on angiogenesis (formation of blood vessels), which is not only essential for development but also for more than 70 disorders (cancer, ischemia, etc). In particular, we study the role of VEGF, hypoxia-signaling and oxygen sensing in angiogenic disorders and the molecular mechanisms of lymphangiogenesis (formation of lymphatic vessels – critical for tumor metastasis) and stem cell-mediated vessel growth.
Blood vessels also affect the nervous system. Through gene-targeting experiments, we discovered a novel and unexpected role of VEGF in motor neuron degeneration. Ongoing studies are focused on unraveling the mechanisms of how VEGF affects motor neuron survival, confirming the relevance for human disease (association studies), and developing therapeutic strategies. In addition, we study the molecular signals responsible for self-renewal and multipotentiality of neural stem cells, and will test whether these molecules can be employed for neural tissue regeneration in CNS injury, ischemia or degeneration.
To optimize efficiency, increase productivity, promote interdisciplinary research, facilitate training and education of junior scientists, and streamline transfer of knowledge and expertise, Peter Carmeliet has organized the technical resources around an infrastructure of expert core facilities.
11/08/2014 - A study by investigators at VIB and KU Leuven has demonstrated that chloroquine also normalizes the abnormal blood vessels in tumors. This blood vessel normalization results in an increased barrier function and in enhanced tumor perfusion.
09/07/2014 - New therapeutic avenues for diabetes, inflammatory conditions & cancer.
12/12/2013 - New research reveals a new strategy to block blood vessel growth in various pathological conditions by depriving them of energy and building blocks necessary for growth.
01/08/2013 - New blood vessel formation (angiogenesis) stimulates the growth of cancer and other diseases. Anti-angiogenic inhibitors slow down cancer growth by disrupting the blood supply to the tumor.
28/02/2013 - Peter Carmeliet and his team (VIB-KU Leuven) joined forces with scientists at Massachusetts General Hospital in Harvard to study the role of the placental growth factor (PIGF) in the growth of this brain tumor.
06/07/2012 - VIB has teamed up with Cell for a symposium about angiogenesis, metabolic regulation and cancer biology, on July 6-8 2012 in Leuven, Belgium. Registration is now open.
24/05/2012 - AXA strongly expanded its support to scientific research on the global risks on the environment, human health and societies. In Belgium 1 million euro goes to Peter Carmeliet (VIB/KU Leuven).
19/10/2011 - In a study published in Nature, researchers identify a new role for Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor (VEGF) in regulating skin cancer stem cells.
14/06/2011 - Researchers at the VIB Vesalius Research Centre, K.U. Leuven, under the direction of Peter Carmeliet, have investigated the role of placental growth factor (PlGF) in mice with CML
03/02/2011 - The Fournier-Majoie Foundation for Innovation (FFMI) has awarded Max Mazzone of VIB-K.U.Leuven a grant for research into a new method of early detection of colon cancer.
07/01/2011 - Normalizing abnormal tumor blood vessels through HRG (histidine-rich glycoprotein) prevents metastasis of tumor cells and enhances chemotherapy efficiency, VIB researchers discovered.
18/11/2010 - VIB researchers Peter Carmeliet and Bart De Strooper have both been awarded Advanced Grants from the European Research Council. ERC Advanced Grants are the most prestigious European research grants, spanning a period of 5 years.
01/07/2010 - Oxford BioMedica and VIB-K.U.Leuven announce an award by the UK MND Association of a research grant to support the further development for the treatment of ALS with gene therapy.
28/06/2010 - Two of the five FWO prizes of EUR 100,000 were awarded to VIB scientists, namely Dirk Inzé (VIB-UGent) and Peter Carmeliet (VIB-K.U.Leuven).
10/02/2010 - The European Medicines Agency (EMEA) has recognized a Leuven lab’s candidate medicine to combat the neurodegenerative disease ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis) as a 'weesgeneesmiddel' (‘orphan medicine’).
08/01/2010 - His pioneering research on heart and vascular diseases and thrombosis has earned Peter Carmeliet the prestigious Ernst Jung Medical Award, one of the highest European prizes for biomedical research.
12/02/2009 - Our blood vessels have a built-in rescue-mechanism that springs into action when there is insufficient oxygen in our tissues. VIB scientists at K.U.Leuven have now discovered that this mechanism can be mobilized in the battle against cancer.
01/12/2008 - Permission has been granted to start the first safety and tolerability trial on patients for a remedy for ALS. ALS is an incurable, paralyzing neurodegenerative disorder that strikes 5 persons in every 100,000.
31/01/2008 - VIB scientists have been researching the role of the Gas6 protein. This substance has proven successful in the treatment of mice with anemia, without causing the side effects that the use of EPO entails.
29/10/2007 - VIB scientists connected to the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, in collaboration with the Flemish biotech company ThromboGenics, have been studying the anti-cancer action of anti-PLGF.
28/11/2004 - Research shows that rats with a severe form of ALS live longer following the administration of the VEGF protein as a remedy. These results open up new possibilities for the use of VEGF in the treatment of ALS.
28/10/2004 - VIB researchers have shown that new blood vessels do not grow in random directions, but that they are guided by specific signal molecules. This is a major step in the development of new targeted forms of therapeutic angiogenesis.
19/08/2004 - Belgian researchers from VIB (the Flanders Interuniversity Institute for Biotechnology), lead by Prof. Peter Carmeliet (K.U.Leuven) already indicated the importance of the VEGF growth factor in this illness.
26/05/2004 - Researchers from VIB (the Flanders Interuniversity Institute for Biotechnology), lead by Prof. Peter Carmeliet (K.U.Leuven) already indicated the importance of the VEGF protein in this illness, on the basis of genetic studies.