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PhD project: B cells and immunoglobulins in alcohol-associated liver disease (ref. BAP-2024-419)

PhD project: B cells and immunoglobulins in alcohol-associated liver disease

(ref. BAP-2024-419)
Last modified: 25/06/24

The Department of Hepatology at KU and UZ Leuven is a renowned unit within the service of gastroenterology, hepatology, and hepatobiliary diseases. This unit is known for its excellent patient care and advanced research into liver, gallbladder, and pancreatic diseases. Established in 1963, the department enjoys international acclaim and is one of the longest-standing liver centers in the world.

The focus of the laboratory is on an integrated approach that combines daily medical care with translational research. Patients here have access to some of the most advanced medications and therapies currently available. The team of specialists is involved in various clinical studies and scientific research, contributing to the continuous improvement of the treatment of liver-related conditions.

The role within this laboratory would focus on contributing to this mission through research, collaboration with other experts, and sharing knowledge on national and international platforms. It is an opportunity to be part of a leading team that strives for innovation and excellence in hepatology.

Unit website

Project

Approximately half of all deaths due to end-stage liver disease (cirrhosis) are alcohol-related. Currently, no effective drug is available. Therefore, increased insight in how alcohol leads to liver injury is needed.
An important role has been proposed for intestinal bacteria in developing alcohol-associated liver disease (ALD). Due to increased alcohol-induced gut damage, gut bacteria and their products leak into circulation and travel to the liver where they induce inflammation and injury. In order to protect against invading pathogens, our body produces antibodies (also called immunoglobulins) that exist in various types and forms that can recognize, bind and clear foreign material. Interestingly, ALD patients have increased antibody titers in their blood compared to healthy individuals, indicating altered immune response towards specific substances. Yet, their contribution to ALD remains unclear.
We hypothesize that increased antibody levels in circulation during ALD reflect altered immunity against gut-derived molecules that propagate liver injury. Hence, we aim to characterize antibodies, their targets and the cells that produce them (B cells) in blood and liver of ALD patients. Moreover, we will test their functional role during ALD in appropriate mouse models. Taken together, these studies will result in novel insights in the disease mechanisms by which alcohol use results in liver disease and in the identification of novel targets for therapy.

Profile

  • Master’s degree in Medicine, Biomedical Sciences, Molecular Biology, Biochemistry, or a related field.
  • Drive and intrinsic motivation for a PhD.
  • Communication skills in Dutch and/or English.

Offer

  • A fully funded PhD position for four years, subject to a favorable evaluation after one year.
  • Access to state-of-the-art facilities, technologies, and patient materials.
  • A stimulating, interdisciplinary research environment. International collaboration with the University of Vienna, Austria.
  • Personal development opportunities and career guidance.

Department of Hepatology, University Hospital Leuven

Interested

For more information please contact Prof. dr. Jef Verbeek, tel.: +32 16 344 225, mail: jef.verbeek@uzleuven.be.You can apply for this job no later than July 16, 2024 via the online application tool

Apply before: 16/07/2024

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