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Environmental Ecology & Applied Microbiology (ENdEMIC)

Research Group

Lifecycle:1 Oct 2003 →  Today
Organisation profile:Lab of Environmental and Urban Ecology - Roeland Samson As human population keeps on growing, pressure on land increases throughout the world. Urbanization is, therefore, a logical consequence, but brings about its own problem as it concentrates many different polluting activities, thereby negatively influencing human health but also having negative impacts on animals and plants. Simultaneously, the urban environment, or the urban ecosystem, with its specific characteristics in relation to e.g. microclimate and degree of air pollution, can also offer solutions to certain environmental problems like by urban agriculture and carbon sequestration. Another problem, dealing with these increasing human populations and, thus pressure on land use, combined with human induced global climate change effects is food security in the south. A sustainable (partial) solution to this problem is the use of indigenous multi-purpose tree species as a source of food (fruits and leaves) and other products (e.g. pharmaceuticals). However, these tree species are often underutilized as often wild, non-domesticated plants are used. A good knowledge of the available natural resources is, therefore, a first step towards local domestication of these species and assuring food security in the South. In relation to the above described environmental problems the Laboratory of Environmental and Urban Ecology (EUREC-A) of Prof. Roeland Samson focuses on three major research topics. - The first research topic deals with environmental plant ecophysiology. Research on this topic considers the plant from leaf till canopy level, and focusses on the ecophysiological characterization of (sub-)tropical multi-purpose tree species in response to environmental factors as e.g. drought and salinity, in the framework of food security and domestication. - A second research topic is on biomonitoring of air pollution with the aim to develop reliable biomonitoring strategies that can be used in developed as well as developing countries. - A third research topic is on urban ecology, with study topics on e.g. urban green, urban biogeochemical cycles and urban agriculture especially in relation to air pollution. The abovementioned research topics are studied from an experimental and modeling approach. Research Laboratory of Applied Microbiology and Immunology - Sarah Lebeer The increased industrialization and urbanization since World War II has co-occurred with a marked increase in chronic inflammatory disorders. The hygiene hypothesis (or microbial deprivation hypothesis) proposes that reduced contact with microorganisms in the first years of life is an important factor in the dysregulation of the education of our immune system and this rise in inflammation. In addition, an increase in air pollution appears to play an important modulatory role in the pathogenesis of these diseases. Pro-inflammatory capacities of particulate matter and other air pollutants have been shown, but the underlying mechanisms are not well understood. The research team of Sarah Lebeer aims to gain more insights in the modulatory role of environmental microbes and air pollution on human health, by the application of molecular microbiological and immunological techniques. Hereto, the research is currently focusing on three major research themes: • A first major topic focuses on the immunomodulatory capacity, anti-pathogenic action and other beneficial capacities of lactobacilli, present in fermented foods, pharmaceutical supplements, human gastro-intestinal tract, vagina and nasopharyngeal capacity. Hereby, special attention goes to the cell surface molecules of lactobacilli (proteins, lipoteichoic acid, polysaccharides, glycoproteins, pili, etc.) and their interaction with immune receptors. • A second topic investigates environmental microbes present in the air and on plants (phyllosphere bacteria) in relation to air pollution and the hygiene hypothesis. Hereby, special attention goes to the development of molecular methods to monitor the diversity and activity of these microbes (bioremediation, immunomodulation, etc.). • A third topic focuses on the monitoring of microbial endotoxins (such as lipopolysaccharides) in relation to air pollution. Hereby, special attention goes to the development of specific bioassays (e.g. in cell lines).
Disciplines:Agriculture, land and farm management, Applied economics, Economic development, innovation, technological change and growth, Management