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Welcome to the website of the Neural Circuit Development and Regeneration research group (NCDR) of KU Leuven. Together with the research groups of Neuroplasticity and Neuroproteomics (Prof. L. Arckens), Comparative Endocrinology (Prof. V. Darras), Insect Physiology and Molecular Ethology (Prof. R. Huybrechts), Functional Genomics and Proteomics (Prof. L. Schoofs), and Molecular Developmental Physiology and Signal Transduction (Prof. J. Vanden Broeck), we form the Animal Physiology and Neurobiology Section of the Biology Department. Our lab is located in the Zoological Institute, more specifically within the historical Premonstreit College, in the very heart of Leuven.
Recently, 2 new PIs, Prof. V. Bonin and Prof. K. Farrow, joined our Section. Both are working within Neuro-Electronics Research Flanders (NERF), a recently established research institute, founded by KU Leuven, VIB and Imec and located within the Imec campus in Leuven.



The research group Neural Circuit Development and Regeneration (NCDR) was established in October 2007 with the appointment of the group leader, Prof. Lieve Moons, as a full-time professor within the Section Animal Physiology and Neurobiology of the Biology Department at KU Leuven.
L. Moons obtained her PhD in Science in 1990 at the Biology Department of KU Leuven, Belgium, after which she worked as a post-doctoral fellow in the Laboratory of Neuroendocrinology and Immunological Biotechnology (Biology Department), performing research on the hypothalamo-hypophysial axis in non-mammalian vertebrates. In 1995, she joined the Vesalius Research Center (previously Center for Transgene Technology and Gene Therapy, Faculty of Medicine at KU Leuven and VIB department), where she contributed, as staff scientist/group leader, to an extensive research program in vascular and neural development and in cardiovascular and neurological disorders (in collaboration with Prof. P. Carmeliet). Her research integrated genomics technologies and morphological/physiological phenotyping in various animal models (fish, frogs, mice).
L. Moons became involved in research on neurodegenerative diseases since 2000 (work on VEGF and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) and so has her research group, since its establishment in 2007. Over the past years the NCDR group largely focused on studying the role of matrix metalloproteinases in neural circuit development and recovery in the optic system of both zebrafish and mice and published several research papers and high impact reviews in this research area.  More recently, their research interest shifted towards glaucoma, an important neurodegenerative disease with high prevelance in our aging society, and to the study of neuroprotective/regenerative approaches within the injured or diseased visual system.
The NCDR currently consists of 1 group leader, 3 post-doc fellows, 8 PhD students, 2 part-time lab technicians and 2 part-time administrative staff members. Together, they have a broad expertise in functional genomics technologies, in detailed morphological and functional phenotyping of animal disease models and in the investigation of cellular/molecular pathways underlying neurodegenerative disorders. To perform their research program, the group relies on a wide array of expertise within a broad national and international research community.





The overall goal of the research group NCDR is to investigate mechanisms and molecules underlying neural circuit development, as well as neuroinflammation, neuronal survival and regeneration in the injured or diseased central nervous system (CNS). Several mouse and zebrafish models, state-of-the-art transgenic and optogenetic technologies and in vivo, ex vivo and in vitro experiments are being used to define the importance of selected molecules, e.g. proteinases, growth factors, signaling G-proteins and neuropeptides, and to determine underlying mechanisms and substrate interactions. Our research projects can be categorized in two broad topics:

  • Molecular and functional characterization of correct wiring of neuronal circuits in the developing CNS.
  • Molecular and functional characterization of neuronal survival and regeneration in vertebrate CNS.



Besides the introductory course "Medical Biology", teached in the bachelor program of Biomedical Sciences, our lab is responsible for more specialized courses and practicals in the bachelors of Biology and of Biochemistry & Biotechnology with a course entitled "Animal Physiology", in the master of Sexual Sciences with a course entitled “Biological Aspects of reproduction” and in the master of Bioinformatics with a course on  “Animal Models”. Every year Biology, Biochemistry & Biotechnology and/or Bioscience Engineering students, join our lab to make their bachelor or master thesis. For more detailed information on thesis projects for the coming year, please see Master thesis 2014.



Very motivated students or post-doc researchers interested in joining the group or scientists interested in collaboration should contact Prof. L. Moons. Opportunities for funding of travel and subsistence are available at several Belgian or European granting agencies (pre- and post-doctoral students, international students, Marie Sklodowska-Curie actions).


Current vacancies

The NCDR group has a vacancy for a young post-doctoral fellow with experience in molecular biology, optogenetics and/or state-of-the-art imaging technologies.


Contact information

Neural Circuit Development and Regeneration
 Research Group
Naamsestraat 61
B-3000 Leuven

Tel. +32 16 32 39 91
Fax +32 16 32 39 02

In the picture

An Beckers
Winner of the L'Oréal Unesco Fellowship-prize 2015

Masterthesis 2015-2016

Kim Lemmens
FRO prize 2014, awarded by the Société Philantropie Royale

Jessie Van houcke 
FRO prize 2013, awarded by the Braille Liga


Eline Dekeyster
FRO prize 2012, awarded by the Société Philantropie Royale

Lies De Groef
FRO prize 2012, awarded by the Fund for Research in Ophthalmology


Lies De Groef 
FRO prize 2011, awarded by the Braille Liga
FRO prize 2011, awarded by the Jules François Foundation for Research

Leuvens oogonderzoek
valt in de prijzen!