Pierre Vanderhaeghen

Our research

Stem Cell and Developmental Neurobiology

Research projects


The major research goal in our laboratory is to understand the molecular and cellular mechanisms underlying the development and evolution of the cerebral cortex, from stem cells to neuronal circuits, from mouse to man, in health and disease. 

The cerebral cortex is one of the most complex and important structures in our brain. In correlation with its elaborate functions, it is made of dozens of distinct types of neurons that display specific patterns of gene expression and synaptic connectivity. Moreover the cortex underwent a major increase in size and complexity during recent hominid evolution, mostly related to increased neuronal number and connectivity.

How does cortical complexity emerge during human development, and how did it increase during evolution? What is specific to human brain development and how does it relate to brain diseases?

We try to address these fascinating questions using an integrated approach that combines tools of human pluripotent stem cell technology, mouse developmental neurobiology, and mouse brain xenotransplantation.

We also apply the same techniques for the modeling of human neurodevelopmental diseases, and to explore the possibility of rational design of brain repair strategies through cell transplantation.

Group members

Group composition

Pierre Vanderhaeghen (PI) (pvdhaegh@ulb.ac.be) phone # +32(0)2 555 4186

Catherine Ledent (PI) (cledent@ulb.ac.be) phone # +32(0)2 555 6415

Marc Astick (postdoc)

Angéline Bilheu (research technician)

Jérôme Bonnefont (postdoc)

Leila Boubakar (postdoc)

Anja Hasche (postdoc)

Adèle Herpoel (research technician)

Ryohei Iwata (postdoc)

Devesh Kumar (postdoc)

Baptiste Libbe-Philippot (postdoc)

Daniele Linaro (postdoc)

Laura Nebreda (research technician)

Matteo Piumatti (PHD student)

Ikuo Suzuki (postdoc)

Roxane Van Heurck (PhD student)

Fausto Velez (research technician)

Marta Wojno (PhD student)


Five key publications

Human-specific NOTCH2NL genes expand cortical neurogenesis through Delta/Notch regulation.
Suzuki IK, Gacquer D, Van Heurck R, Kumar D, Wojno M, Bilheu A, Herpoel A, Cheron J, Polleux F, Detours V, and Vanderhaeghen P.
Cell (2018), in press.

An intrinsic mechanism of corticogenesis from embryonic stem cells.
Gaspard N, Bouschet T, Hourez R, Dimidschstein J, Naeije G, vandenAmeele J, Espuny-Camacho I, Herpoel A, Passante L, Schiffmann S, Gaillard A, and Vanderhaeghen P.
Nature 455 (2008), 351-357. Preview in Cell Stem Cell.

Pyramidal neurons generated from human pluripotent stem cells integrate efficiently into mouse brain circuits in vivo.
Espuny-Camacho I, Michelsen K, Gall D, Linaro D, Hasche A, Bonnefont J, Bali C, Orduz D, Bilheu A, Herpoel A, Lambert N, Gaspard N, Péron S, Schiffmann SN, Giugliano M, Gaillard A, and Vanderhaeghen P.
Neuron (2013), 77, 440-456. Preview and Featured Article in Neuron.

BCL6 induces neurogenesis through Sirt1-dependent epigenetic repression of selective Notch transcriptional targets.
Tiberi, L., van den Ameele, J., Dimidschstein, J., Piccirilli, J., Gall, D., Herpoel, A., Bilheu, A., Bonnefont, J., Iacovino, M., Kyba, M., Bouschet T., and Vanderhaeghen P.
Nature Neuroscience (2012), 15, 1627-1635.

Ephrin signalling controls brain size by regulating apoptosis of neural progenitors. Depaepe V, Suarez N, Passante L, Dufour A, Gorski J, Jones K, Ledent C, and Vanderhaeghen P.
Nature 435 (2005), 1244-1250. N&V in Nature Neurosci.