In the research group Experimental Pharmacology the vast majority of scientists are trained in pharmacology and psychopharmacology. Our team has however a nice complementarity between a number of neuroscientists-pharmacologists engaged in preclinical research, a number of analytical experts looking for new sensitive methods for monitoring numerous neuromediators, brain biomarkers and pharmacological read-outs, and a number of colleagues who conduct mainly clinical pharmacological research. Our research group is part of the Center for Neuroscience (C4N) of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (https://c4n.research.vub.be/en)
1/ Preclinical research in EFAR
EFAR has expertise with rodent models of seizures and refractory epilepsy, stress-related mental disorders such as anxiety and major depressive disorder, Alzheimer’s disease, stroke and more recently also multiple sclerosis. The neuromethods we use on a daily basis range from in vivo to ex vivo and in vitro approaches. We have a range of in vivo paradigms to assess convulsive behavior, stress coping, anxiety- and depressive-like behavior, cognitive and motor function. We utilize electrophysiological approaches including in vivo telemetry-based 24h-EEG monitoring and ex vivo slice electrophysiology. We are renowned for in vivo monitoring of endogenous mediators from brain samples (e.g. microdialysis, COFM). We perform ex vivo analyses of rodent brain biomarkers and in vitro work on cultured neurons, astrocytes or microglia. We more recently started to work at the single cell level with patch clamp electrophysiology and transcriptomics. We make use of not only classical pharmacology and genetic models but adopt also novel state-of-the art technologies such as chemogenetics and photopharmacology and we recently developed expertise in transcranial electrical stimulation methods.
The team of Ilse Smolders is mainly dedicated to find new therapeutic strategies for refractory epilepsy.
Cognitive dysfunction is a core symptom in several neurological but also psychiatric disorders where it severely affects quality of life and predicts poor functional recovery. The team of Dimitri De Bundel studies rodent models in a range of behavioural tests to determine the mechanisms driving cognitive dysfunction and to explore potential therapeutic targets: NEUROMODULATION AND INFLAMMATION IN STRESS-RELATED MENTAL DISORDERS - VUB C4N.
Ron Kooijman who is unfortunately approaching his retirement has always been a driving force for unravelling mechanisms of neuroinflammation in brain diseases: NEURO-INFLAMMATION, NEUROTROPHIC FACTORS AND NEUROPROTECTION - VUB C4N.
2/ Bioanalytical research in EFAR
Neuropharmacological research is strongly dependent on the availability of sensitive analysis methods for neurotransmitters, neuromodulators and biomarkers in brain samples of rodents. The development of newer, faster, better and more sensitive analysis methods is the challenge for the bioanalysts in our team, pharmacist Ann Van Eeckhaut and clinical biologist Ilse Weets. They apply targeted (e.g. sensitive LC-tandem mass spectrometry) and untargeted (e.g. metabolomics) analytical methods in their research. The team of Ann Van Eeckhaut focusses on bioanalytical challenges in basic neuroscience research. The team
of Ilse Weets performs biomarker research in the domains of metabolic diseases, diabetes and neurodegenerative disorders.
3/ Clinical pharmacological research with a link to neuroscience
The use of medicinal products during pregnancy, lactation and in young children calls for special caution. A risk assessment requires knowledge of the specific pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics. The team of Eline Tommelein focuses on the use of medicines during these phases of life, but also on the adequate treatment of pregnancy- or breastfeeding-related disorders. Another line of research of Eline Tommelein are the drug-related problems that can arise when medicines are used differently from how they were intended and she specifically focusses on interactions with alcohol use and smoking.
Sofie Brouwers interest in hypertension and how it can be regulated by the brain is long standing. She is interested how brain mediators interact to control sympathetic tone and blood pressure and may be important in the pathogenesis of many forms of hypertension: CNS AND BLOOD PRESSURE CONTROLE - VUB C4N. She also carries out research into pharmacological treatments of high blood pressure to improve the outcome of difficult-to-control hypertensive patients.