Prof. Dr.


Vrije Universiteit Brussel
Room 7F424
Pleinlaan 2
1050 Brussels | Belgium


One of the challenge of developmental and stem cell biology is to understand how cells know their position in the embryo and tissues and react upon it by proliferating, migrating and differentiating to form the embryo and to maintain functional organs.

To address these questions we are studying the role of secreted molecules during the early phase of development when an embryo composed initially of a few thousand pluripotent cells will be organized in three germ layers (ecto-, meso- and endoderm) with an antero-posterior axis (head to tail) and a dorso-ventral axis (belly to back).

To strenghten the results obtained by studying embryos, we are also analyzing the signals triggering the differentiation of embryonic stem cells. Moreover, some of the embryonic signals are also overactivated in adult tissues leading to cancer.

Hendrickx M, Van XH, Leyns L. (2009) Anterior-posterior patterning of neural differentiated embryonic stem cells by canonical Wnts, Fgfs, Bmp4 and their respective antagonists.
Dev Growth Differ. 2009 Aug 23.

Willems E. and L. Leyns “Patterning of mouse embryonic stem cell-derived pan-mesoderm by Activin A/Nodal and Bmp4 signaling requires fibroblast growth factor activity”
Differentiation 2008, 76:745-59

D. Piette, M. Hendrickx, E. Willems, C. R Kemp and L. Leyns (2008) “ An optimized procedure for whole-mount in situ hybridization on mouse embryos and embryoid bodies” 
Nature Protocols 7: 1194-1201

Hendrickx M. and L. Leyns “Non conventional Frizzled ligands and Wnt receptors” Development, Growth & Differentiation, 2008, 50:229-243

Willems E., L. Leyns and J.Vandesompele. 2008 “Standardization of real-time PCR gene expression data from independent biological replicates”
Analytical Biochemistry 379:127-29