Prof. dr. Heidi Declercq

Head of Biofabrication lab

Heidi Declercq is assistant professor in the Tissue Engineering Lab at KU Leuven. There she leads the research in the field of ‘Biofabrication of vascularized and complex tissues (FACOMTI)’.  

Prof. Declercq is a biomedical engineer (KaHo St Lieven 1997 and UGent 1999) and obtained a PhD in Medical Sciences in 2005. After performing postdoc projects at UGent, she was head of the Bioprint Facility/Tissue Engineering & Biomaterials Group at Ghent University until September 2019.

The research interest of Prof. Dr. Heidi Declercq is focused on the biofabrication of vascularized or complex tissues by the combination
of cellular spheroids, 3D scaffolds/hydrogels and biomolecules. Her experience with 3D cell/biomaterial constructs is build up since 2000 starting with top-down classical tissue engineering (3D printed or electrospun scaffolds,…). Since a few years, interest has shifted to modular tissue engineering; by at random or directed assembling of cellular building blocks, macrotissues are created. As such, we have expertise in the biofabrication of cellular spheroids and bioprinting them in a 3D configuration by using smart hydrogels. High-throughput generation of cellular spheroids mimicking mature tissue was successful for cartilage, fibrocartilage, bone, adipose tissue, myogenic and valvular tissue,…Vascularized spheroids were fabricated as universal building blocks for the integration of capillary-like networks. Currently, our research focus is towards the biofabrication of vascularized and complex tissues. Dependent on the application, different cell sources were evaluated, gaining us expertise in isolation of primary cells (chondrocytes, osteoblasts, myoblasts,…), mesenchymal stem cells derived from different sources (adipose tissue, bone marrow, dental pulp,…), pluripotent stem cells, endothelial cells,…

The strength of the group lays in the combination of expertise regarding 3D cell culture, co- and dynamic culturing, differentiation of cells, bioprinting and biomaterials.

She has been teaching tissue engineering, cell culture, biomaterials & biocompatibility,  histology and cell physiology to bachelor or master students in Biomedical Sciences, Biomedical Engineering and Medicine.

Prof. Declercq is reviewer for several leading tissue engineering journals (Biofabrication, Biomaterials, Tissue Engineering,…) and is involved as expert reviewer for the European Commission for projects related to bioprinting of complex tissues.

Her multidisciplinary potential is demonstrated by authorship (110 articles) in leading journals of different areas. Citations in Web of Science result in a h-index of 21.

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