Portrait of the month: Florence Chainiaux's research team

"The Stress and AGEing (SAGE) group: Understanding the mechanisms of ageing, from cells to humans"

From left to right: Emilie Bauwens (PhD student), Mathieu Van Loo (Master student), Céline Warnon (PhD student), Sahar Al Qaraghuli (posdoc researcher), Dr Florence Debacq-Chainiaux (Principal Investigator) and Leen Luyten (PhD student)

Dr. Florence Debacq-Chainiaux, FNRS Research Associate at the UNamur, leads a research group established within the Laboratory of Cellular Biology (URBC) and devoted to the understanding of the biological processes that govern ageing. Her group, called SAGE for "Stress and AGEing", focuses on the interconnection between stress and cellular senescence, a phenomenon defined as the irreversible arrest of normally dividing cells. Florence pursued the work initiated by her colleague Prof. Olivier Toussaint. Their research previously showed the impact of oxidative stress and/or DNA-damaging agents (H2O2, t-BHP, UVB...) on the premature appearance of the senescent phenotype in human cells, a concept called "Stress Induced Premature Senescence (SIPS)". As the skin represents an ideal model to study the impact of environmental stress on its ageing, in vitro experiments are carried out on human skin cells, including epidermal keratinocytes and dermal fibroblasts, in order to investigate key molecular mechanisms of ageing. Read more about SAGE

Four basic research projects are currently ongoing:

  • Emilie Bauwens developed an UVB-stress induced senescence model in keratinocytes and is interested in the communication between senescent keratinocytes and cancer cells. She studies how the direct secretion of factors by senescent cells, called the senescence-associated secretory phenotype, can influence the behaviour of skin cancer cells.
  • Céline Warnon investigates the regulation of the senescence-associated secretory phenotype, mainly at the level of epigenetic modifications, by studying the impact of histone deacetylases (HDACs) expression on its establishment.
  • Sahar Al Qaraghuli conducts a postdoctoral work addressing two objectives: (1) investigating the gene expression changes associated with senescence at different oxygen conditions (21% (atmospheric) or 5% (physiological)), and (2) exploring the link between DNA damage response and the development of premature senescence.
  • Leen Luyten is enrolled in a joint PhD project with the UHasselt (Prof. Tim Nawrot, Centre for Environmental Sciences). Her research aims at identifying placental molecular signatures of prenatal exposure, predictive of environmental pollution effects on neurodevelopment in early life.

In parallel, Dr. Florence Chainiaux has supervised projects aiming at the in vitro evaluation of the toxicity of nanoparticles. She is member of the Namur Nanosafty Center.

Besides this basic research, Dr. Florence Chainiaux is also partner of several clinical projects around human ageing (search for biomarkers associated with frailty, longevity and age) and more recently, around caregiving (search for biomarkers predicting the impact of caregiving on the caregiver’s health). In this context, Florence maintains a longstanding and fruitful collaboration with Prof. Marie de Saint Hubert from the Department of Geriatric of the CHU UCL Namur and develops a multidisciplinary approach with colleagues from UNamur involved in the SATRAP project and in the research group GRIVES.

Contact: florence.chainiaux@unamur.be