Fundraising is fun! Two researchers of the Department of Translational Neuroscience will climb the Mont Ventoux in France during the Tour du ALS, a yearly event to raise funds for ALS research. Under the slogan “Let’s kick ALS out of the world together”, hundreds of cyclists, runners and hikers will, together with ALS-patients, conquer the mountain on the 8th of June this year.
“Besides working on a daily basis in the lab to help discover the fundamental pathology behind ALS, this event is a great opportunity to contribute in a different way to the fight against ALS.” Rianne de Jongh
Rianne and Astrid will join the larger UMC Utrecht Brain Center team of fourteen researchers and staff. Next to raising funds themselves, Rianne and Astrid will also talk to patients that will support the event on the spot. Both PhD students are involved in projects that aim to elucidate the fundamental mechanisms of ALS, as members of the Pasterkamp lab.
“I see how the daily research efforts for ALS will inevitably result in effective medicine in the long term, therefore it is important that events like this ensure continued funding for research into this devastating disease.” Astrid van der Geest
If you would like to support the ALS center team of the UMC Utrecht you can do so here until 30th of June 2023. We are proud of our members’ ongoing fundraising efforts to support research in a number of diseases. Any amount is welcome in this fight against ALS, a research priority at the UMC Utrecht Brain Center.
Does stress eating sound familiar? Stress can increase the intake of high caloric food, which can contribute to obesity and eating disorders, but the neurobiology underlying this process is not clear. In a new paper out in Nature Communications the lab of Frank Meye describes how stress changes synaptic strength from the Lateral Hypothalamus (LHA) to the Ventral Tegmental Area (VTA) midbrain dopamine system to drive binge eating behavior.
First author Louisa Linders observed in mice that social stress resulted in binge-like intake of high caloric fat. Calcium recordings done by Lefkothea Patrikiou and Evelien Schut showed that LHA glutamatergic neurons controlling the VTA were responsive to such social stress, as well as to fat intake. Using patch-clamp electrophysiological approaches, Louisa went on to show that social stress strengthened the glutamatergic synaptic connection from the LHA to the VTA. Optogenetic tweaking of the strength of these LHA-VTA synapses proved critical in regulating whether stress eating took place. Overall, this paper highlights an important causal role of stress-induced plasticity in the synaptic connection from the lateral hypothalamus to the midbrain dopamine reward system for stress-driven food intake.
“I’m excited that we can share our findings on how stress changes synaptic function to causally contribute to stress eating.” Louisa Linders
We look forward to seeing the upcoming work from the Meye group!
In recent years the combination of brain slice electrophysiological recordings of neurons in response to optogenetic stimulation of their input, has become an indispensable staple to probe the function of neural circuits. The large amounts of distinct metrics that one can obtain this way are both informative but also daunting to the newcomer. In a recent review paper, Frank Meye’s team summarized the methodological state-of-the-art for this approach. The paper featured several team members including co-first authors Laura Supiot and Louisa Linders. In particular, the authors reviewed the rationale behind the different metrics used to study synaptic connectivity and changes in synaptic strength. They compiled a guide for the implementation of these methodologies in practice and discussed future directions to decipher neural circuits.
“We aimed to provide the rationale for distinct electrophysiological synaptic metrics, as well as practically explain how to obtain them.” Laura Supiot
Also see the tweet by Frank Meye. Congratulations to the whole team! 🎉
Another successful PhD on ALS! On Thursday 20th of October Renata Vieira de Sa defended her PhD thesis “Repeat expansions in Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Lessons from patient-derived models” at the Academiegebouw of Utrecht University. In her PhD thesis, Renata studied the contribution of C9orf72 and Ataxin2 repeat expansion to ALS using different patient-derived models including brain organoids and 2D motor neurons. She was supervised by promotors Jeroen Pasterkamp and Leonard van den Berg. This PhD on ALS further solidifies UMC Utrecht Brain Center as a leader in the field. Her work on human organoid models was instrumental in developing the cellular diversity. Renata continues her career as a post doctoral researcher at uniQure B.V. and the OrganoVIR labs in the AMC where she will continue developing advanced human models.
“It was a pleasure to defend my thesis after working on this topic for so long! It was a great way to conclude my time at the brain Center ” Renata
Once again, congratulations!
On Tuesday October 18, Christiaan Huffels successfully defended his PhD thesis, titled “Tracing the signals: Unravelling neuron-glia interactions in Alzheimer’s disease”, at the Academiegebouw of Utrecht University. In his thesis, Christiaan examined the role of astrocytes and microglia in the early development of Alzheimer’s disease using a multidisciplinary approach, combining the use of slice electrophysiology, calcium imaging, immunohistochemistry, behavioral analyses, and pharmacological interventions. He was supervised by promotor Prof. dr. Elly Hol and co-promotor Dr. Jinte Middeldorp. For his next career step, he will continue his work as a postdoc in the lab of Prof. dr. Elly Hol at the University Medical Center Utrecht Brain Center, where he will focus on developing functional assays on human cell culture systems.
“I enjoyed working on this interesting topic for 4.5 years and I am grateful to have ended it in such a great way! It was a great day and I’m happy to continue working in the Hol lab to further develop my skills as a researcher” Christiaan Huffels
The work for his thesis was performed at the Translational Neuroscience department. His output include articles titled “Aß Pathology and Neuron-Glia Interactions: A Synaptocentric View” published at the Neurochemical Research and “Systemic Injection of Aged Blood Plasma in Adult C57BL/6 Mice Induces Neurophysiological Impairments in the Hippocampal CA1” published at Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease. We are looking forward to his contribution to the scientific research.