van Amerongen Lab - Developmental, Stem Cell & Cancer Biology

- Swammerdam Institute for Life Sciences - University of Amsterdam -  

what do we study?

Development of a multicellular animal requires tight control of cell proliferation, differentiation and polarized cell movements to ensure the correct assembly of cells into complex tissues. How are such three-dimensional tissues built and maintained?
This is the key question we address in our research.

Our focus lies on a specific subset of cell-cell communication pathways (mainly WNT signaling) for which we try to understand how they can elicit specific, yet diverse, cellular responses depending on the developmental context. To this end, we use a variety of model systems. Our main tissue of interest is the mammary gland, which has fascinating, complex and dynamic growth and differentiation properties.

why do we study this?

Our research is largely curiosity driven with the goal to close fundamental knowledge gaps in biomedical research. In fact, we tackle a core question in biology, which is how cells send, receive and interpret molecular signals (which are subtle and dynamic) and subsequently integrate this information to determine their identity and behavior (which needs to be reliable and robust).

By investigating these processes at the molecular, cell and tissue level, we not only study fundamental principles of how life operates, but also work at the exciting interface of developmental, stem cell and cancer biology.

what is the impact of our work?

The same molecular mechanisms that normally guide complex biological processes in the embryo, maintain tissue homeostasis in the adult. In healthy individuals, these processes are tightly regulated, resulting in a balance between cell division and the formation of non-dividing, specialized cell types. A disruption in this finely tuned balance can have severe consequences. Depending on when, where and how Wnt signaling is disrupted, for instance, this can result in anything from inborn errors of development, to a whole spectrum of age-related diseases that range from tissue degeneration to tumor formation. Understanding the molecular details of these processes, can help identify new entry points for prevention, diagnosis and therapeutic intervention.

Put differently, insights from developmental biology can be translated to more applied areas, including cancer research and regenerative medicine. As such, our fundamental research has the potential for long term impact on human health and wellbeing.

how do we study this?

We use a combination of model systems and experimental approaches, including lineage tracing analyses, primary three-dimensional organoid cultures and CRISPR/Cas (epi)genome editing.

Read more about our research (for scientists)
Read more about our research (for non-scientists, in English)
Lees meer over ons onderzoek (voor leken, in het Nederlands)

We enjoy talking about our research (or science in general) to a wide range of audiences. Whether it is kids, high school students or interested adults, we welcome opportunities to communicate our fascination for the human body (and what goes on inside it at the level of DNA, proteins and cells) to the general public. Contact for speaking or writing engagements.

We are also open to collaborations with industry or SMEs, so contact if our expertise is of interest to you.

Our work has received financial support from the following sources: