Stefaan Soenen

Stefaan Soenen Peronal Picture.jpg


Stefaan Soenen
Laboratory for General Biochemistry and Physical Pharmacy
Ghent University
Harelbekestraat 72
9000 Gent
Tel: 0032 9 2648047 (secretary)
Tel: 0032 9 264 xxxx (direct)
Fax: 0032 9 2648189


Stefaan obtained a Master's degree at the College of West-Vlaanderen, department PIH (Belgium) in Industrial Sciences, specializing in Biochemistry. After that, he obtained a Master after Master degree in Molecular Medical Biotechnology at Gent University (Belgium) in 2006. In 2007, he started on his IWT-funded PhD in Medical Sciences at KULeuven University (Belgium) under guidance of Prof. Marcel De Cuyper (KULeuven Campus Kortrijk, IRC), working on: "Evaluation of cell-nanoparticle interactions: Development and characterization of cationic magnetoliposomes to improve cell labelling". In 2010, he obtained an FWO post-doctoral fellowship at Ghent University under supervision of Prof. Kevin Braeckmans and has since then been working in the lab of General Biochemistry and Physical Pharmacy.
His research mostly focuses on evaluating the interactions between nanosized materials and live cells, with the main emphasis on the potential toxicity of nanomaterials. Setting up novel assays to study in-depth analysis of cell-nanomaterial interactions (for instance, study intracellular degradation of nanoparticles over a longer time course), and optimizing methods for robust and rapid screening of nanomaterial cytotoxicity. For this work, he has been staying in the Centre for NanoHealth in the UK, in the group of Dr. Shareen Doak for 4 months in 2012 and 6 months in 2013. He has been awarded with the BioNanoNet Special Poster Award for "Most promising development of nanotoxicology in the physiological context" at the international congress on Safety of Engineered Nanoparticles and Nanotechnologies (2012) and his work has appeared as a frontispiece issue of the journal Small for the study entitled: “Intracellular nanoparticle coating stability determines nanoparticle diagnostics ability and cell functionality.”

Summary of Research Project(s)

The current FWO-post-doctoral research project focuses on the use of nanosized quantum dots for specific intracellular labeling in live cells, where various methods would be evaluated to try and get these materials to be selectively delivered to the cell cytoplasm in free form. However, the substantial toxicity of the quantum dots urged us to modify our focus, trying to gather more knowledge of how these materials interact with cultured cells and what parameters govern their toxicity. For this purpose, a multiparametric methodology was developed where the toxicity of nanomaterials can be tested for a wide number of parameters under well-defined and reproducible conditions. Various assays were optimized and implemented to allow in-depth evaluation of parameters that have not been studied in-depth thus far. The use of this methodology furthermore allows to compare the toxic effects of various types of nanomaterials and hereby allows to pinpoint the exact parameters resulting in nanotoxicity. Several collaborations have been set up to drive various aspects of this project such as nanoparticle synthesis and characterization (prof. Wolfgang J. Parak, University of Marburg, Germany; prof. Vince Rotello, University of Massachusetts, USA; prof. Zeger Hens, Gent University, Belgium, prof. Peter Dubruel, Gent University, Belgium) and toxicological assay development (Dr. Shareen Doak, University of Swansea, UK; Dr. Francesca Bldelli-Bombelli, University of East-Anglia, UK). Additionally, the final performance of the particles for biomedical research (for instance as contrast agents for non-invasive imaging), is evaluated in collaboration with prof. Uwe Himmelreich (University of KULeuven, Belgium).
Further projects supervised by Stefaan include the project of Freya Joris, where the influence of various cell models is evaluated to try and generate in vitro models that more closely mimic the human physiology. The project by Karen Peynshaert focuses on investigating the contribution of autophagy to nanoparticle-induced toxicity and whether the potential of nanomaterials to induce autophagy can be exploited as an anti-cancer therapy. The project by Ranhua Xiong focuses on the triggered generation of vapour nanobubbles by illuminating gold nanoparticles with a high intensity pulsed laser and evaluating whether these vapour nanobubbles can then be used for transfection of cells with nanomaterials or the destruction of bacterial biofilms.