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Charcot Fellowship 2018-2022
KU Leuven
The second Charcot Fellowship is awarded to Mrs Lies Van Horebeek (KU Leuven). Her promotor is Prof. An GORIS and co-promotor is Prof. Dr. Bénédicte DUBOIS.
The contribution of Lies Van Horebeek
Together with international colleagues, KUL research group demonstrated that 211 genetic risk factors influence an individual’s susceptibility to MS. Identification of these factors meant a big leap forward over the past 10 years and highlighted an important role of immune cells during disease development. As known genetic risk factors are not all explanatory, the next key question is: what triggers whether an individual with a certain load of known genetic risk factors does or does not get MS?
Her research purpose
Lies Van Horebeek proposes a novel explanation in her research project. For a long time, it has been assumed that our genetic code is identical in all cells of our body. We are now starting to understand that our body actually is a mosaic of cells, which can differ slightly in their genetic material. These genetic differences are not inherited from our parents but have arisen newly in a subset of our cells, and are called somatic variants. The role of these genetic variants in the susceptibility to autoimmune and neurological diseases is increasingly being uncovered. In her Master’s thesis Biomedical Sciences, Lies has developed a method to detect such somatic variants in the immune cells of MS patients.
The PhD Fellowship of the Belgian Charcot Foundation will now enable Lies to investigate whether and how these somatic variants contribute to the development and the course of MS. This will contribute to a better understanding of the disease. Lies will also investigate whether these variants can be used as markers for immune cells that play a role in disease development. If so, these markers would be useful to follow up a patient’s response to treatment. Read the interview here.