News

February 24, 2022 / News, Research paper

Single-cell profiling adult human neural stem cells

Neural stem cells (NSCs) of the subventricular zone (SVZ) remain mostly in a dormant state in the adult human brain after closure of the neurogenic period at birth. These dormant progenitors rarely proliferate or produce neurons. How an adult human NSC is maintained in this quiescent state and could be triggered to re-activate is still unclear.

Manipulating SFRP1 function

In this recent publication at Nature Communications, Vanessa Donega, Elly Hol and colleagues unravel a possible mechanism through which progenitors of the adult human SVZ are maintained in a dormant state. They used state-of-the-art single-cell RNA sequencing to profile the molecular characteristics of a major neural stem cell niche in the adult human brain. They identify the Wnt pathway antagonist SFRP1 as a possible signal that promotes neural stem cell quiescence in the aged human SVZ. Furthermore, they show that inhibition of SFRP1 stimulates neural stem cell activation both in vivo and in vitro. This work opens up future possibilities to stimulate neural stem cells of the human brain to promote repair.

“I am very happy that this work is out, and I am excited to continue investigating the role of SFRP1 in regulating neural stem cell quiescence.” Vanessa Donega

This work was performed primarily at our Translational Neuroscience department of the UMC Brain center. This work was supported by ZonMw, by the MAXOMOD consortium, a Ministry of Science and Technology of China grant, Theme-based Research Scheme, Health and Medical Research Fund and CUHK Direct Grant

February 16, 2022 / News, Research paper

Astrocyte function in early-stage Alzheimer’s disease on GLIA

Astrocytes are literally the star cells of our brains! PhD candidate Christiaan Huffels, from the group of Elly Hol, recently published a study on astrocyte function in early-stage Alzheimer’s disease in the scientific journal GLIA.

Alzheimer’s Disease is the main form of dementia in the elderly, characterised by the accumulation of amyloid-ß protein. In this study, Huffels and his colleagues examined the role of astrocyte function in Alzheimer’s Disease. They focused on Kir4.1 expression and function, which is an ion channel that is essential for the role of astrocytes in the maintenance of tissue ion homeostasis. Despite localised increase in Kir4.1 protein expression, astrocyte Kir4.1 channel dysfunction is likely not involved in the pathogenesis of early-stage Alzheimer’s disease. This study hereby provides more in-depth insight into the development of early-stage Alzheimer’s disease and provides directions for future research. After this study was accepted for publication, one of the images was selected for the cover of GLIA.

Christiaan was happily surprised: “I thought it was great that they asked me to provide an image for the cover and immediately agreed, as this can draw extra attention to the interesting study we performed.”

The research was primarily performed at our Translational Neuroscience Department at UMC Bran Center, in collaboration with the University of Amsterdam and University of Bonn. The study was supported by the University of Amsterdam, ZonMW, and Alzheimer Nederland.

January 24, 2022 / News, positions

Two tenure track assistant professor positions (EXPIRED ON 28-02-2022)

We are recruiting young talent for two tenure track assistant professor positions!

Tenure track assistant professor in cell and molecular neurobiology

A tenure track assistant professor position in molecular and cellular neurobiology is now open for applications! We seek outstanding candidates with an excellent track record in cellular or mouse (transgenic, viral-induced) models of human brain disease and with expertise in state-of-the-art genome editing and bioinformatics. The candidate should have an interest in neuron-glia interactions, development of brain circuits, and brain diseases. The relevant UMCU post is here.

Tenure track assistant professor in advanced human iPSC modeling

A tenure track assistant professor position in advanced human iPSC modeling is now open for applications! We seek an outstanding candidate with an excellent track record in cellular models of human brain disease (iPS cells, organoids) and associated state-of-the-art molecular (e.g. genome editing) and neurophysiological techniques (e.g. calcium imaging, patch-clamping, multiple-electrode arrays). The candidate should have an interest in neuron-glia interactions, development and function of brain circuits, and brain diseases. The relevant UMCU post is here.

Visit our recruitment page for more details. 

November 26, 2021 / Grants, News

XS grant for Danai Riga

Post-doc researcher Danai Riga investigates ways to raise our body’s defends against stress, in order to prevent the development of anxiety. In particular, she aims to understand how built-in anti-stress systems work, and how to harness their therapeutic potential to alleviate anxiety. She received an XS grant (50.000 euro), via the NWO’s Open Competition Domain Science, which supports the fast implementation of curiosity-driven, groundbreaking ideas. Her project, titled “Stamps of resilience: elucidating the molecular diversity of the brain’s anti-stress system”, will examine the unique molecular identity of neuronal cells that mediate stress-relief.

Npy Neurons will be the focus of this grant
Npy neurons in Locus Coeruleus play an important role in stress response
Danai Riga receives XS-grant
Danai Riga

“I am honoured to have received the XS grant, which will help me realise an exciting set of experiments in collaboration with other researchers of the Brain Center. Together, we will provide a detailed molecular map of our brain’s anti-stress system. We hope this will form the basis for uncovering novel targets for the treatment of anxiety”

She will perform the described work at the Translational Neuroscience department together with Frank Meye and colleagues

Congratulations!! 🎊👏

November 17, 2021 / News, Research paper

Research paper on Pharmacology teaching

Teaching Pharmacology to (bio)medical students is a prominent role of the department of Translational Neuroscience. Through the years the method of teaching basic science subjects like Pharmacology has changed. As a result, we no longer teach pharmacology as an independent subject with a separate final examination. Instead, it is integrated with other subjects.

personal involved
Mirjam is central to teaching at the Translational Neuroscience Department, organizes and gives courses at multiple levels at the University of Utrecht and UMC Utrecht at the Bachelor level
Person involved
Rahul is the coordinator of the pharmacology and pharmacology track within the medical curriculum of the University Medical Center Utrecht, playing an active role in improving teaching quality

This integrated medical curriculum has advantages, such as better integration of clinical and preclinical subjects. It also has its disadvantages, such as the absence of separate examination on Pharmacology. Due to curricular integration, students could still graduate despite having sub-optimal knowledge of the subject.

Our faculty members Rahul Pandit, PhD and Mirjam A. F. M. Gerrits, PhD continuously improve the teaching quality within the department and UMCU. In the current paper, they aimed to investigate and address the drawbacks of the methods of examination within the integrated medical curriculum. To achieve this, they looked into one specific aspect of Pharmacology (Pharmacokinetics) and shown that the student knowledge is on this topic is sub-optimal. In addition, they suggest a few solutions to address this issue. Please visit here to view the article published as open access in Medical Science Educator.

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