Greet Kerckhofs
Recent publications

is Associate Professor at the iMMC, running the Biomechanics lab. The lab aims to apply an interdisciplinary, combinatory research approach, encompassing experiments, characterization and computational modelling, to solve different biomedical and biomechanical research questions. Her research will build further upon the expertise she has obtained during her PhD and postdoc.

Prof. Greet Kerckhofs obtained her PhD in 2009 at the Dept. Materials Engineering (MTM - KU Leuven), of which the aim was to optimize and validate microfocus X-ray computed tomography (microCT) to characterize porous materials. This non-destructive 3D imaging technique allows to visualize the entire internal structure of materials without destroying them. She performed her PhD and postdoc within Prometheus, the division of Skeletal Tissue Engineering of the KU Leuven. This interdisciplinary platform aims to repair large bone defects using tissue engineering constructs (i.e. biomaterial with cells and/or growth factors). Trained as an engineer, within Prometheus she has been capable of integrating biology and engineering technology (such as imaging, biomaterials testing and production/design) into her research and as a result, she now belongs to the small group of researchers that have grown into a genuine interdisciplinary profile.

During her postdoc, she has been optimizing contrast-enhanced microCT (CE-CT) for the 3D visualization and characterization of not only mineralized, but also soft biological tissues in different fields of application. As a result, she has become a pioneer and recognized expert in the field CE-CT. She has started collaborations worldwide and she is setting the stage for a new era of virtual 3D histology of soft tissues. She is currently also 10% Visiting Professor at the Dept. MTM (KU Leuven) and she is member of the scientific board of Prometheus (KU Leuven).

IMMC main research direction(s):
Biomedical engineering
Processing and characterisation of materials

contrast-enhanced computed tomography

Research group(s): MEED


PhD and Post-doc researchers under my supervision:

A microCT-based approach for biomechanical characterization of biodegradable metallic intravascular stents
Lisa Leyssens

The goal of my research project is to develop a highly detailed, advanced characterization platform to assess different aspects of biodegradable metallic intravascular stents using high-resolution 3D microfocus X-ray computed tomography (microCT). This will improve the understanding of the functional behavior of biodegradable stents in order to improve their design for potential clinical use. Structural properties will be investigated. They are critical because they will influence the mechanical and in vivo behavior of the stents. The mechanical properties will be assessed through 3D local strain mapping using 4D microCT. Finally, the stents will be screened in vivo to analyze the corrosion and surface changes, before and after implantation in rat arteries, and to quantify tissue ingrowth. Contrast-enhanced microCT will be used to visualize the vascular tissue. Different metallic alloys will be compared throughout the project.

Towards intelligent design of tissue engineering constructs for complex biological tissues – advanced 3D microstructural and mechanical tissue characterization
Camille Pestiaux

My work during the coming years will focus on the visualization of composite tissues and on the characterization of mechanical response of soft tissues, especially heart valves using nanofocus X-rays.

Organs and body parts are made of composite tissues in which tissue layers are structured by their extracellular matrix to provide biomechanical and biochemical cellular support. Tissue engineering constructs are nowadays biological or synthetic scaffolds seeded with cells. Biological tissue engineering constructs are derived from human native decellularized composite tissues. They can then be re-cellularized with cells before re-implantation in the receiver by a novel process in ongoing development. Synthetic scaffolds are limited by the lack of knowledge about the structural and functional properties of composite tissues.

My goal is to determine with a high level of detail the full three dimensional morphology of the different types of extra cellular matrix within native composite tissues. It will require the development and optimization of novel advanced characterization techniques such as contrast-enhanced micro-computed tomography (CE microCT).
Concerning the mechanical testing, composite tissues, as almost all soft tissues exhibit a viscoelastic behavior. Their mechanical response is thus time-dependent with creep, relaxation and hysteresis and is thus non-linear. I will work in collaboration with Prof N. Famaey from KU Leuven for this characterization. A further evaluation could be done using CE-CT imaging with 4D microCT to visualize the evolution of the tissue with time.

Synthesis and development of novel contrast agents for 3D multitissue imaging using contrast-enhanced computed tomography.
Sarah Vangrunderbeeck

The project aims to set the stage for a new era of virtual 3D histology using contrast-enhanced microfocus computed tomography (CE-CT) by developing and validating novel contrast-enhancing staining agents (CESAs). A multidisciplinary approach is applied, crossing the boundaries between biology, engineering, imaging and chemical synthesis. We will develop and synthesize novel CESAs that specifically stain different components of the extracellular matrix in whole tissues. One example within this project is the development of antigen-specific CESAs, which are comparable to immunohistochemistry. Hence, we propose ex-vivo high-resolution CE-CT imaging to become a non-invasive quantitative 3D anatomical tool that will allow unprecedented 3D characterization of the biological tissues.

Bone Marrow Adiposity - Improving the Characterization Methods to Better Understand its Role in Osteoarthritis
Maverick Bleuse

In order to better study the relationship between the different subtissues in the osteochondral unit, we will use contrast-enhanced microCT (CE-CT). Although efforts have been made to visualize BMAT in 3D using CE-CT, the current contrasting staining agents (CSAs) are mostly invasive and highly toxic, such as osmium tetroxide. The current CSAs, hence, do not allow simultaneous visualization of the different subtissues in the osteochondral unit. Within the research group of promoter G. Kerckhofs (UCLouvain), new non-invasive, non-toxic stains are being developed. It is, therefore, the first objective of this PhD study to optimize CE-CT imaging for simultaneous visualization of the different subtissues in the osteochondral unit, with a strong focus on BMAT imaging.

The second objective is to assess the progress of OA, and the related changes in different subtissues in the osteochondral unit, using our optimized 3D imaging techniques as well as Raman spectroscopy (expertise of promoter B. Cortet, Université de Lille, France). A mouse OA model with a destabilized medial meniscus (DMM) will be used for this study. We will assess whether BMAT could be an early biomarker of OA progression and a predictor of subchondral and cartilage changes. Identifying BMAT as a marker of the progression of OA and potentially the response to therapeutic agents would be a major advance in the assessment of the disease, which today relies on the progression of irreversible cartilage loss and multifactorial clinical symptoms.

As a third objective, we aim to evaluate the effect of corticosteroids on OA progression. Corticosteroid injections can relief pain in patients with OA. However, the effect of corticosteroids on cartilage degeneration, or other changes in the osteochondral unit, have never been assessed. For our study, intra-articular injections of corticosteroids will be made in healthy and OA joints (at different time-points of OA). Two different injection protocols will be applied to the mice: an intensive weekly series of intra-articular injections will be performed to generate the most possible effect (intensive frequency), and a second series of time-spread injections, supposed to be closer to a protocol performed in the human treatment of OA (here, the expertise of promoter B. Cortet will be important).

Recent publications

See complete list of publications

Journal Articles

1. Pascart, Tristan; Paccou, Julien; Colard, Thomas; Norberciak, Laurène; Girard, Julien; Delattre, Jerôme; Marchandise, Pierre; Legrand, Julie; Penel, Guillaume; Coursier, Raphaël; Putman, Sophie; Cortet, Bernard; Kerckhofs, Greet; Budzik, Jean-François. T1-weighted MRI images accurately represent the volume and surface of architectural mineral damage of osteonecrosis of the femoral head: Comparison with high-resolution computed tomography. In: Bone, Vol. 130, p. 115099 (2020). doi:10.1016/j.bone.2019.115099 (Soumis).

2. De Clercq, Katrien; Persoons, Eleonora; Napso, Tina; Luyten, Catherine; Parac-Vogt, Tatjana N.; Sferruzzi-Perri, Amanda N.; Kerckhofs, Greet; Vriens, Joris. High-resolution contrast-enhanced microCT reveals the true three-dimensional morphology of the murine placenta. In: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Vol. -, no.-, p. 201902688 (2019). doi:10.1073/pnas.1902688116.

3. Bolette, Adrien; Lecloux, Geoffrey; Rompen, Eric; Albert, Adelin; Kerckhofs, Greet; Lambert, France. Influence of induced infection in medication-related osteonecrosis of the jaw development after tooth extraction: a study in rats. In: Journal of Cranio-Maxillofacial Surgery, Vol. 47, no. 2, p. 349-356 (2019). doi:10.1016/j.jcms.2018.08.011.

4. de Bournonville, Sébastien; Vangrunderbeeck, Sarah; Kerckhofs, Greet. Contrast-Enhanced MicroCT for Virtual 3D Anatomical Pathology of Biological Tissues: A Literature Review. In: Contrast Media & Molecular Imaging, Vol. 2019, no.-, p. 1-9 (2019). doi:10.1155/2019/8617406.

5. Beekman, Kerensa M.; Zwaagstra, Marleen; Veldhuis-Vlug, Annegreet G.; van Essen, Huib W.; den Heijer, Martin; Maas, Mario; Kerckhofs, Greet; Parac-Vogt, Tatjana N.; Bisschop, Peter H.; Bravenboer, Nathalie. Ovariectomy increases RANKL protein expression in bone marrow adipocytes of C3H/HeJ mice. In: American Journal of Physiology-Endocrinology and Metabolism, Vol. 317, no.6, p. E1050-E1054 (2019). doi:10.1152/ajpendo.00142.2019 (Soumis).

6. Coutel, Xavier; Delattre, Jérôme; Marchandise, Pierre; Falgayrac, Guillaume; Béhal, Hélène; Kerckhofs, Greet; Penel, Guillaume; Olejnik, Cécile. Mandibular bone is protected against microarchitectural alterations and bone marrow adipose conversion in ovariectomized rats. In: Bone, Vol. 127, p. 343-352 (2019). doi:10.1016/j.bone.2019.06.031 (Soumis).

7. Penel, Guillaume; Kerckhofs, Greet; Chauveau, Christophe. Brief Report From the 4th International Meeting on Bone Marrow Adiposity (BMA2018). In: Frontiers in Endocrinology, Vol. 10 (2019). doi:10.3389/fendo.2019.00691 (Soumis).

8. Zhao, Lv; Ding, Lipeng; Soete, Jeroen; Idrissi, Hosni; Kerckhofs, Greet; Simar, Aude. Fostering crack deviation via local internal stresses in Al/NiTi composites and its correlation with fracture toughness. In: Composites Part A: Applied Science and Manufacturing, Vol. 126, p. 105617 (2019). doi:10.1016/j.compositesa.2019.105617.

9. Marin, Carlos; Papantonakis, Georgios; Sels, Kathleen; van Lenthe, G Harry; Falgayrac, Guillaume; Vangoitsenhoven, Roman; Van der Schueren, Bart; Penel, Guillaume; Luyten, Frank; Vandamme, Katleen; Kerckhofs, Greet. Unraveling the compromised biomechanical performance of type 2 diabetes- and Roux-en-Y gastric bypass bone by linking mechanical-structural and physico-chemical properties.. In: Scientific Reports, Vol. 8, no.1, p. 5881 (2018). doi:10.1038/s41598-018-24229-x.

10. Marin, Carlos; Luyten, Frank; Van Der Schueren, Bart; Kerckhofs, Greet; Vandamme, Katleen. The impact of type 2 diabetes on bone fracture healing. In: Frontiers in Endocrinology, Vol. 9, no. 6 (2018). doi:10.3389/fendo.2018.00006.

Conference Papers

1. Frangi, Giulia; Kerckhofs, Greet; Boulestreau, Jérémy; Autrusseau, Florent; Veziers, Joëlle; Guicheux, Jérôme; Penel, Guillaume; Chauveau, Christophe; Prieur, Xavier; Beck, Laurent; Beck-Cormier, Sarah. Altered bone marrow adiposity in PiT2-deficient mice.

2. Hanne, Nicholas J.; Stangeland-Molo, Sandra J.; Khodjaniyazova, Sitora; Geeroms, Carla; Thornburg, Hannah L.; Kerckhofs, Greet; Parac-Vogt, Tatjana; Muddiman, David C.; Cole, Jacqueline H.. Changes to the osteovascular niche following ischemic stroke in mice.

3. Hoffmann, Delia; Vangrunderbeeck, Sarah; Maistriaux, Louis; Tohala Pulgarin, Karem Paulette; Fievé, Lies; Duisit, Jérôme; Lengelé, Benoît; Behets Wydemans, Catherine; Kerckhofs, Greet. Contrast-enhanced microfocus computed tomography of body parts and organs: screening and validation of contrast agents.

4. Léger, Jean; Leyssens, Lisa; De Vleeschouwer, Christophe; Kerckhofs, Greet. Deep learning-based segmentation of mineralized cartilage and bone in high-resolution micro-CT images.

5. Frangi, Giulia; Kerckhofs, Greet; Boulestreau, Jérémy; Autrusseau, Florent; Veziers, Joëlle; Guicheux, Jérôme; Penel, Guillaume; Chaveau, Christophe; Prieur, Xavier; Beck, Laurent; Beck-Cormier, Sarah. PIT2 deficiency results in skeletal phenotype associated with alteration of bone marrow adipose tissue.

6. Hanne, Nicholas J.; Steward, Andrew J.; Geeroms, Carla; Kerckhofs, Greet; Parac-Vogt, Tatjana N.; Cole, Jacqueline H.. Ischemic Stroke Alters Blood Vessel Branching and Size Distribution in the Distal Femur.

7. Leyssens, Lisa; Verhaegen, Carole; Horman, Sandrine; Jacques, Pascal; Kerckhofs, Greet. Optimization of contrast-enhanced micro-CT for characterization of the in vivo behavior of biodegradable metallic intravascular stents.

8. Leyssens, Lisa; Ryelandt, Sophie; Favache, Audrey; Kerckhofs, Greet. Advanced characterization of the 3D morphology and the mechanical properties of the enthesis: optimization study.

9. Leyssens, Lisa; Ryelandt, Sophie; Favache, Audrey; Kerckhofs, Greet. Nanoindentation of biological tissues: opportunities and challenges for the bone-tendon interface.

10. Leyssens, Lisa; Bejar Ayllon, Natalia; Fehervary, Heleen; Lacroix, Valérie; Famaey, Nele; Kerckhofs, Greet. Arterial grafts: in depth characterization of structure and mechanical properties.

Book Chapters

1. Wevers, Martine; Nicolai, Bart; Verboven, Pieter; Swennen, Rudy; Roels, Staf; Verstrynge, Els; Lomov, Stepan Vladimirovitch; Kerckhofs, Greet; Van Meerbeek, Bart; Mavridou, Athina; Bergmans, Lars; Lambrechts, Paul; Soete, Jeroen; Claes, Steven; Claes, Hannes. Applications of CT for non-destructive testing and materials characterization. In: Industrial X-Ray Computed Tomography , Springer, 2018, p. 267-331. 978-3-319-59571-9.

2. Verboven, P.; Ho, Q.; Herremans, E.; Mebatsion, H.; Nicolai, B.; Kerckhofs, Greet; Wevers, M.; Cloetens, P.. Fruit Microstructure Evaluation Using Synchrotron X-Ray Computed Tomography. In: Food Engineering Interfaces , Springer: New York, 2011, p. Chapter 24. 978-1-4419-7475-4.