Dr. Apr. Heleen Van Acker

Apr. Heleen Van Acker

Dr. Apr. Heleen Van Acker

Laboratory of Pharmaceutical Microbiology (LPM)
Universiteit Gent
Ottergemsesteenweg 460
B-9000 Gent - Belgium

Tel: 32 - (0) 9 264 80 93
Fax: 32 - (0) 9 264 81 95

E-mail: Heleen.VanAcker@ugent.be

list of publications

Heleen Van Acker graduated in Pharmaceutical Sciences at the University of Ghent in 2009.

In 2014, she obtained her PhD in Pharmaceutical microbiology (Ghent University) for her work entitled "Molecular mechanisms of persistence in Burkholderia cenocepacia biofilms".

She received an FWO postdoctoral fellowship and currently she is working as a postdoc at the LPM lab. The purpose of her research is a better understanding of the molecular mechanisms responsible for the antimicrobial resistance in Burkholderia cepacia complex isolates (sessile and planktonic). A possible explanation for this resistance may be the presence of persister cells. These cells, considered to be highly specialist surviving cells, are not mutants but phenotypic variants of the wild type. Once the stress causing these phenotypic variants is removed, a wild type culture arises that again contains only a very small fraction of persister cells.

A first task will be to identify the conditions in which cells are induced to become persisters. The Burkholderia cepacia complex consists of several species who will be exposed to different kinds of stress (antibiotics, disinfectans, heat, UV-radiation). Experiments will be done on planktonic as well as sessile cells. Possible methods are plate counting, most probable number (MPN) methods, membrane filtration and solid phase cytometry. The latter makes it possible to identify all living cells (culturable and non-culturable).

A second part will be the study of the gene expression in persisters. Microarray analysis and real time quantitative PCR will be used to evaluate the expression patterns.