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Vikkula Group

Miikka Vikkula headshot

Miikka Vikkula, MD, PhD

Co-Director and Professor of Human Genetics Institut de Duve 
Brussels, Belgium
European Coordinator

The Vikkula Lab is interested in the identification of mutations that drive the formation of vascular anomalies. The lab uses patient-derived tissues and blood samples for its research. The impact of identified variants is investigated in cell (modified HUVECs or primary cells from patients) and mouse models, and RNAseq is used to characterize the altered gene expression profiles. With the Leducq network, we also want to unravel the role that mechanotransduction plays in development of vascular anomalies. The ultimate goal is better understanding of the pathophysiological mechanisms underlying vascular anomalies. This should provide additional targets for testing novel molecular therapies.

Group Members

Ana  Valero
Ana Valero, PhD
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Ana received her PhD in Biological Sciences (Biomedicine) from the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), studying the role of the transmembrane serine protease 4 (TMPRSS4) in the development of Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis (IPF). In 2018, she joined NYU School of Medicine for a first postdoctoral position studying Mycobacterium tuberculosis immune evasion and then the in vivo role of the innate transcription factor Elf1 in viral infections. With a solid background in in-vivo work, in March 2022 she started her postdoctoral position in the Vikkula Lab at the de Duve Institute to work on animal modeling of lymphatic/vascular diseases. Her goal is to develop mouse models that help to better understand the pathophysiological mechanisms underlying vascular anomalies and test potential therapeutic targets for these conditions.

Angela  Queisser
Angela Queisser
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I joined Prof. Miikka Vikkula's laboratory in Brussels (Belgium) in 2016, expanding my expertise to the area of vascular diseases. My focus is on pathophysiology of vascular diseases and the identification of novel treatment targets. Particularly, I characterize patient-derived endothelial cells isolated from different vascular malformations.  

From 2012, I was a postdoctoral fellow at the University Hospital Bonn (Germany), in the team of Prof. Sven Perner. My research was devoted to prostate cancer progression and the involvement of stem cell markers during this process  

I started my postdoctoral career at the Albert-Ludwigs University Freiburg (Germany) in 2011. My PhD thesis, which I finished in 2011 in the working group of Prof. Oliver Opitz, dealt with the “Induction of an alternative telomere maintenance mechanism in human esophageal tumors using genetic telomerase inhibitors”.  

Before, I studied biology until 2005 with a focus on cell biology, genetics, and pharmacology at the Eberhard-Karls University Tübingen (Germany). In my diploma thesis in Dr. Reiner Lammer’s team at the University Hospital Tübingen, I identified novel binding partners of the tumor and stem cell marker CDCP1.   

Lucas Potier
Lucas Potier
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I began my PhD at Prof. Vikkula's laboratory in October 2021 as an FNRS research fellow. My research focuses on the genetic causes of primary lymphoedema (PLE), more specifically, the oligogenic causes of PLE in patients, in order to better understand the underlying pathophysiological mechanisms. I mainly concentrate on in vitro characterization of variants from cell lines or patient cells.

I am from Belgium. I earned my bachelor's degree in biomedical sciences in 2020 from the University of Namur, and my master's degree in molecular and cellular pathophysiology from UCLouvain in Brussels in 2022. I initially joined the Vikkula lab at the de Duve Institute for a one-year internship as a master's student in February 2021, followed by a four-month internship at KU Leuven, where I worked on viral vector production for gene therapy applications. I later returned to the de Duve Institute, where I have been pursuing my PhD since
Martina   De Bortoli
Martina De Bortoli, MS
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My name is Martina, and I am originally from Italy. I received my bachelor's degree in medical biotechnology at the University of Padova in 2017. In 2019, I obtained a double master's degree in functional genomics by the University of Trieste (Italy) and the University of Rennes (France) with a final thesis on the genetic and developmental aspects of holoprosencephaly (HPE). I am currently a third-year PhD Student in the laboratory of human genetics of Prof. Miikka Vikkula at the de Duve Institute, in Brussels. My PhD project focuses on the genetic analysis of patient's samples to identify new genes and mutation that could explain the percentage of vascular anomalies that remain, to this day, unsolved. 

Pascal  Brouillard
Pascal Brouillard, PhD
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I am a senior researcher in human molecular genetics in the laboratory of Prof. Miikka Vikkula, at de Duve Institute, University of Louvain, Brussels, Belgium for nearly 25 years. I am also in charge of the Genomics platform of the university. I worked on blood-related vascular anomalies, and in 2002, I discovered the Glomulin gene as the cause of glomuvenous malformations and showed for the first time that inherited VA lesions arise upon second-hit mutations. In 2011, I started to work on the elucidation of the genetic causes of primary lymphedema and lymphatic anomalies, leading to the identification of several novel causative genes (ADAMTS3, ANGPT2, EPHB4, MDFIC) and numerous mutations in other ones, giving rise to several publications in the field, most recently for Nature Reviews Disease Primer on the topic of primary lymphoedema. 

Raphael  Helaers
Raphael Helaers
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I am a bioinformatician with a strong expertise in Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) and software development, and a deep interest in biology, genetics and evolution. With a Master of Computer Sciences, I started a PhD in bioinformatics at Université Libre de Bruxelles in the field of evolutionary biology, with two projects two projects that allowed me to dive into molecular biology. In the first, I implemented meta-heuristics within a comprehensive software for phylogeny inference. In the latter I built a phylogenetic framework for multi-species genome comparisons. I have worked in the lab of Pr. Miikka Vikkula (UCLouvain) since 2010, where I manage bioinformatics for the Next Generation Sequencing platform and provide bioinformatics support for the de Duve Institute. Here, I developed my expertise in NGS data analysis and human genetics, culminating in the implementation of Highlander an easy-to-use but complete software for variant filtering that has allowed geneticists to discover numerous new mutations in rare human diseases.