Isala wants to break the taboo around vaginal health. That’s why all our research kits contain great conversation starters  (also online available). Use these cards as inspiration for interesting chats with friends and family, and find out how much there is to say about vaginal health.

You can also start a conversation online by clicking on a question and adding your response. You can do it anonymously – your first name is fine. The Isala researchers will answer your question. This way, we can increase knowledge about the female microbiome and break the taboo together. That’s our dream at Isala. Feel free to add comments and ask questions – let’s start the conversation together! 

Participating in the Isala project: Poverty as a silent opponent?

The Isala team is very grateful for the thousands of Isala women that participated in the first research phase. But did you ever wonder what this group looked like? When I started my Master’s degree in Sociology at the University of Antwerp, I got the opportunity to choose a Master’s thesis from a wide range of topics. I realized very quickly that one topic really stood out: ‘inclusive citizen science’, using the Isala project as a case study.

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A successful start in Nigeria: a great symposium and interactive radio show

Last summer, the Dora team organized the very first symposium to launch the Nigerian sister project. The event was held in an auditorium at Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Nigeria and attracted a lot of people, including college staff, students, and members of the public, including the State Commissioner for Health of Anambra (the state where the university is located). Let’s look back on this special day! In addition to that, the Dora team was welcomed in a radio show. No need to worry if you missed it because in this blog you will discover how it went, as if you were there. 🙂

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Get to know Lactobacillus isalae: the first official Isala baby bacterium

Woohoo! Thanks to the vaginal swabs of our Isala participants, we discovered a completely new bacterial species in the vagina! It was up to us to name this new bacterium ourselves and we called it Lactobacillus isalae. With this, we wanted to honor Isala Van Diest, but the scientists reviewing our proposal emphasized that we should also highlight our Isala project in the description. Quite an honor! This wasn’t possible without our amazing participants. Keep on reading to discover more about this new vaginal bacterium and the scientific article dedicated to it! 😊

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International recognition for Isala in a high-quality journal

Your attention please! Today the most important results of our first Isala phase are published in a scientific journal. Not just any kind of journal, no, we are referring to the one-and-only prestigious Nature Microbiology journal. The preprint of our scientific article (this is kind of a ‘test print’ that is subjected to some feedback rounds) was available for some time now, but from today on the official publication is a fact! We are very proud and, above all, very grateful to have reached this milestone. 😊 This publication is a very nice recognition for Isala. In this blog several authors who largely contributed to this publication will take the floor. Definitely keep on reading!

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Isala at a festival: The big award ceremony in Linz!

Now, 3.5 years after the start of our Isala project, we already achieved many milestones: more than 6000 women participated, we found more than 10 types of bacteria, almost 3000 vaginal bacteria were cultivated in the lab, a team of more than 25 researchers and so on. And we keep on growing! Isala was awarded the Grand EU Prize for Citizen Science (be sure to check our previous blog). This prize was officially awarded last month at the ARS Electronica Festival in Linz, Austria! The ARS Electronica Festival is a place where artists, scientists, developers, designers, entrepreneurs, and activists come together from all over the world. In short, a breeding ground for new ideas and insights, with the focus in 2023 on the topic: “Who owns the truth?”. Join us on this amazing trip! 😊

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From sharks to menstrual pain, with Isala it’s all possible

If you have followed our Isala project for a while, you know that we are very enthusiastic and keen to study a lot, especially when it comes to advancing the health of women (and their partners and children). This ranges from the effect of certain vitamins on women’s health to the effect of underwear on menstrual cycles. Some of these questions can be answered by studies in which we ask people to do something and then we investigate the effects. This type of study is called an intervention study. For example: we might ask a group of women to wear only cotton or polyester underwear for a month to see if there are changes in the composition of their vaginal microbiome. A similar small-scale study was previously organised by our Isala colleagues (check our GeneDoe blog), and we are currently planning a new study on menstrual hygiene in collaboration with the Isala sisterhood in Peru, Switzerland, and Cameroon. But, what if we, for example, want to better understand the effect of pregnancy or the effect of smoking? We cannot ask people to get pregnant or engage in unhealthy behaviours for a study. So, we have to look for other solutions and that is where my freshly started PhD will contribute.

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