The research of the Molecular Biology department aims at unravelling the molecular basis of development and differentiation emanating from the genome and epigenome in the context of health and disease. The major focus is on the regulatory networks in several model systems. State-of-the-art technological developments are applied, ranging from single molecule studies to genome wide elucidation of genetic and epigenetic pathways and mechanisms.
The research of the Molecular Biology department is divided in 5 different teams:
Gene regulation in stem cells & cancer cells
The team of Michiel Vermeulen aims to understand how genes are regulated and expressed in stem cells and cancer. For this, we develop and apply state-of-the-art quantitative mass-spectrometry-based proteomics and next generation DNA sequencing technology to decipher how genes are regulated and expressed in stem cells, as well as how this regulation is disrupted in cancer cells.
The team of Richárd Bártfai conducts research on Malaria, aiming to decipher transcriptional and epigenetic mechanisms that govern the development of P. falciparum and its interaction with the human host. Insights into gene regulatory mechanism of the malaria parasite will hopefully lead to development of antimalarial compounds.
The team led by Colin Logie does research on chromatin and the relation between chromatin structure and transcription, DNA replication, recombination and repair. Research focuses on transcription factors, histone modifications and on SNF2-type ATPase bearing chromatin motors. With the aim to uncover how the chromatin structure affects the accessibility of the DNA and how it influences the proper functioning of our cells.
"Ground state" of pluripotent ESCs
Embryonic stem cells (ESCs) have the remarkable ability to develop into any type of cell in the body (so called 'pluripotency'). In recent years, advancements in stem cell technology has enabled researchers to grow mouse ESCs in a defined serum-free medium, in which the ESCs can be kept in a "ground state" of pluripotency. The team led by Hendrik Marks aims to further understand and define the ground state of ESCs. By studying the signals, the gene networks, and the epigenetic mechanisms, we hope to gain a deeper understanding of how ESCs remain in their pluripotent ground state.
Oncofusion proteins in cancer development
The team led by Joost Martens is studying abnormal proteins called oncofusion proteins and their role in cancer development. Understanding the binding regions, the effects on gene activity, and the associated epigenetic features can provide valuable information about the underlying mechanisms of cancer and potentially lead to the development of targeted therapies or diagnostic tools.