Myeloid Cell Immunology
Our mission is to use the heterogeneity of myeloid cells as an in vivo sensor to track inflammatory responses and as a target for therapeutic intervention.
Tissue-associated myeloid cells contain different subpopulations with different ontogenetic origin, including embryonic yolk sac and fetal liver-derived resident macrophages and adult bone marrow-derived recruited myeloid cells (mainly monocytes, monocyte-derived macrophages, neutrophils and dendritic cells). Evidence is mounting that these myeloid cell subpopulations perform distinct functions in health and disease. Thus, we focus on studying (epi)genomics, (single cell) transcriptomics, proteomics, metabolomics and functional heterogeneity of different myeloid cell subpopulations present in selected homeostatic or inflamed tissues, in particular in tumors (tumor-associated macrophages, myeloid-derived suppressor cells and dendritic cells) and the liver (Kupffer cells.
These cutting-edge molecular and genetic technologies allow the discovery of novel functionalities and markers in myeloid cell subsets, based on which we fully invest in the development of innovative tools to visualize and modulate these cells’ in vivo differentiation, recruitment and function in inflamed and diseased tissues. These tools include the generation of novel transgenic mouse strains that allow the tracking, modulation and ablation of selected myeloid cell populations, providing unprecedented insights in the role of these myeloid cells in homeostasis and in distinct models of tumor growth and liver injury. We also aim to develop original strategies to overcome inflammation-associated immunopathology of infectious and non-infectious diseases. In this regard, we fully exploit the strategic advantage of nanobodies, i.e. camelid-derived single-domain antibody fragments, and their engineering platform as tools for in vivo myeloid cell-targeted delivery of imaging agents (radionuclides, gold- or magnetic nanoparticles) and drugs that can remediate the inflammatory disease outcome and be translated readily into the clinic.