Cell Biology and Infection

Shedding light on the intricate workings of microbes and cells is the focus of research conducted in the Department of Cell Biology & Infection. The scientists in this research department want to shed light on normal and pathological cell function and the interactions between infectious agents and their hosts (humans), both by unraveling the mechanisms governing them but also by understanding the consequences of these interactions on tissues, organs and the entire organism. Understanding these phenomena is key to fighting diseases.


The Department of Cell Biology & Infection is shedding light on the intricate workings of microbes and cells. Understanding these phenomena is key to fighting diseases. The department’s research covers various fields of health:

  • infections: Chlamydia and other sexually transmitted diseases, chikungunya, meningitis, shigellosis, salmonellosis, tuberculosis, listeriosis, etc. Some research is therefore conducted with the departments of Virology and Infection & Epidemiology.
  • neurodegenerative diseases (Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and prion diseases), often caused by an “infectious” protein that forms aggregates on brain cells and leads to malfunction or progressive loss of neurons.
  • cancers: the aim being to study the biological processes that explain both the normal process of cell division and migration, until the mechanisms behind cancer proliferation, cancers invading cells and their metastasis in the organism are understood. This research often coincides with studies on cell senescence and the mechanisms of aging.
  • the microbiota, formerly called bacterial flora, is also studied in conjunction with various health problems.

Many studies involve the Department of Genomes & Genetics, to develop the genomics side, or the Department of Immunology, to study immune response in cells.

Cutting-edge technologies

Research into all these biological phenomena in cells requires state-of-the-art microscopy and high-level human expertise to analyze the findings. The department therefore develops:

  • in vitro models to study diseases, particularly microfluidic cell and organ culture models with the Center for Innovation & Technological Research (Citech).
  • imaging techniques, the latest instruments for observing the infinitely small (with the Ultrapole or Imagopole, for example), and the means for analyzing these images using algorithms developed by engineers in the department.
  • genomics and proteomics tools for understanding how, by altering a specific bacterium criterion, it is possible to change the “behavior” of the bacterium itself or the organism’s reaction to infection.
  • finally, approaches developed by physicists and mathematicians who work with biologists in the department and help to add a quantitative dimension to the biological processes studied in the laboratory.

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