Rita Sobral Santos

Rita Sobral







Laboratory for General Biochemistry and Physical Pharmacy
Ghent University
Ottergemsesteenweg 460
9000 Gent
Tel: 0032 9 264 80 47 (secretary)
Tel: 0032 9 264 80 49 (direct)
Fax: 0032 9 2648189


Rita studied for her integrated master in Bioengineering – Biological Engineering at the Faculty of Engineering of the University of Porto, Portugal (finished with A).
During her graduation, she performed a research project in the AlbaNova University Center, Stockholm, Sweden, related with epigenetics in plant tissues. On 2010/11, she was a teaching assistant in two laboratorial courses. Her master thesis  entitled “Effect of the endogenous and exogenously applied pectin methylesterase on the strawberry texture - a novel method to improve fruit texture” was performed in collaboration with an agro-food company. After her graduation, she joined this company to scale-up of the process developed during her thesis.
She started a 1 year research scholarship on the subject: “DNA  mimics  –  Development  and  application  of  DNA  mimics  for  the  rapid identification  of  pathogens", in the Laboratory for Process Engineering, Environment, Biotechnology and Energy (LEPABE), from the Faculty of Engineering of the University of Porto.
Rita obtained a mixed PhD scholarship from the Portuguese Foundation of Science (FCT), for a project to be developed both in LEPABE and the Ghent Research Group on Nanomedicines (GRGN), at the lab of general biochemistry and physical pharmacy. She started her PhD on 04/2013 in LEPABE. From 09/2013 to 07/2014, she joined GRGN. From 08-12/2014 she joined the Stockholm University, as a visitor student. On 01/2015 she came back to GRGN, to complete her joint PhD.

Research interests:

In situ hybridization, microbiology, nanotechnology, mucus.

Summary of Research Project(s)

The research of Rita focuses on hybridization therapies directed at Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori), using nucleic acid mimics (NAMs). H. pylori infects more than half of the world’s population. It is mostly found deep in the gastric mucus lining of the stomach, being a major cause of peptic ulcers and gastric adenocarcinoma. The efficacy of the current antibiotic treatment is compromised by the increasing resistance of H. pylori. As an alternative therapy, we aim to use NAMs to hybridize and ultimately inhibit the expression of essential H. pylori genes. The success of this approach will depend on the ability of the NAMs to overcome the very tough barrier of gastric mucus.

Schema Rita

Fig.1 – Schematic representation of NAMs in gastric mucus, on their way to target H. pylori.

In this project model NAMs will be used to study the hybridization efficiency in H. pylori in the presence of gastric mucus. It is aimed to evaluate both naked NAMs and NAMs delivered by nanoparticles. This study will include the stability and diffusion through gastric mucus.