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.
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.
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.
“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.
On March 26 in 1636, Utrecht University was founded and this year we celebrate 385 years of science in Utrecht. As part of this celebration, the project “A word about tomorrow” connects scientists with the general public. PhD students Rianne, Astrid, and Marloes participated in this project and visited libraries all over Utrecht to talk to visitors about their curiosities. Together with us scientists, the visitors came up with research questions. Everyone, young and old, from different kinds of backgrounds, were welcome to join a table with a scientist.
“We want to know what kind of questions they have and what they think are important topics to study”
Surprising and original questions came one after the other. One older woman wondered if we could improve preventive screening for colon cancer by actually studying cases where the screening was not accurate. She had experienced this herself. Some kids were wondering why only people above 12 were able to get a COVID-vaccine. Many raised ethical questions. An entire family was debating whether childhood disorders should receive more funding than age-related diseases. All questions gathered in this project are collected. To some of them, we might already have an answer. Others might actually end up at the Utrecht Science agenda to be studied in the future.
A visitor said: “It was super fun to talk to a scientist, completely different from what I expected.”
And not only the visitors had fun celebrating the 385 years of science in Utrecht, as a scientist these kind of conversations broadens your horizon and evaluate your own research. As the Translational Neuroscience department, we our students for their well appreciated effort.
An amazed 7-year old kid noticed: “Scientists ask a lot of questions”
Photos: Lize Kraan
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.
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.