Stéphanie Herkenne appointed FNRS Research associate at the University of Liège



Stéphanie Herkenne, a doctor in biochemistry and researcher in the Molecular Angiogenesis Laboratory of the GIGA Cancer (GIGA/Faculty of Science) at the University of Liège, has been awarded a Research associate mandate by the FNRS (the Belgian National Fund for Scientific Research) to continue her research into the development of therapeutic strategies for treating vascular diseases and cancers.

PPassionate about science from an early age, Stéphanie Herkenne decided to take up secondary studies in the sciences. After completing a bachelor's degree in Chemistry, with a biochemistry option, a master's degree in biochemistry at the Faculty of Sciences of the University of Liège and an Erasmus in the European genetics master's programme at the Universities of Paris VI and VII, she decided to start a doctorate at the Faculty of Sciences of the ULiège.

"During my PhD, I elucidated the mechanism of action of an anti-angiogenic agent discovered in the laboratory, Prolactin 16K, a fragment of Prolactin. It was after this that I discovered the important role played by blood vessels. It's important to note that blood vessels are present and necessary in virtually every organ in the body. What's more, blood vessels play a key role in the formation of tumours. They have remarkable plasticity, because they can go into dormancy and become active whenever they want. Without the contribution of blood vessels, a tumour cannot develop or metastasise. For these reasons, I decided to pursue a post-doctorate in order to understand the molecular mechanisms that lead to angiogenesis. During my post-doctorate at the University of Padova, we discovered a new mechanism that controls the formation of new blood vessels. In fact, in a totally unexpected way, mitochondria, the little energy power plants, play a crucial role in the formation of blood vessels. Even more surprisingly, mitochondria regulate angiogenesis not via their ability to produce energy but via their ability to establish contacts with other organelles within the endothelial cell".

In her new role, Stéphanie Herkenne will set about dismantling the mechanisms by which mitochondria interact with other cell organelles, starting with endosomes. These endosomes are the cellular platforms that are the starting point for controlling signalling within the cell. "By understanding these interactions, we will understand how blood vessel formation is regulated. In the longer term, this will enable us to develop therapeutic strategies to treat vascular diseases as well as cancers.

About Stéphanie Herkenne

Stéphanie Herkenne holds a bachelor's degree in Chemistry and Biochemistry from the Haute École de la Province de Liège, and a master's degree in Biochemistry (Faculty of Science) from the University of Liège in 2008. She then began a PhD at the GIGA under the supervision of Prof. Joseph Martial and Ingrid Struman. Her thesis focused on determining the role of the PAI-1/uPA/uPAR interactome in angiogenesis. In 2013, Stéphanie Herkenne joined the University of Padua thanks to three grants - FP7 Marie Curie, AIRC grant and Umberto Veronesi Foundation - to carry out a postdoctoral stay in the laboratory of Professor Luca Scorrano, whose research is developing in the field of cellular and metabolic physiology. In 2018, Stéphanie Herkenne returned to the University of Liège as an FNRS research fellow at the GIGA Research Centre. Since 2021, Stéphanie Herkenne has been a grant holder at the Belgian Cancer Foundation. In 2023, she will obtain a mandate as Research associate from the FNRS to continue developing her research.

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Stéphanie Herkenne

© Photo : ULiège - B.Bouckaert

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