Van Amerongen Lab     -      Developmental & Cancer Biology

Section of Molecular Cytology    -     Swammerdam Institute for Life Sciences    -     University of Amsterdam  
lab milestones    social    science    teaching    communication & outreach   


NEMO kinderlezing

12 March, 2019

Awesome Wnt cake

The students celebrated the start of their internships by treating us to an exciting cake:

20 February, 2019

Grand tour of Germany

Renee visited Jena (8 hours by train from Amsterdam) for a PhD committee meeting and gave a talk at the Leibniz center for Aging. Then she took a train to Munich, where she spent the weekend working in a hotel room. On Sunday she met up with Larissa to visit collaborator Christina Scheel for some inside tips on human breast organoid cultures. Six days well spent!

14 February, 2019

Welcome students

Beau, Delano and Kyah started their BSc internships. With their arrival, the lab is crowded and all supervisors are busy again. Here is to happy cloning and good results!

1 February, 2019

Feature in KWF magazine

Renée was featured in "Sterker", the magazine for KWF donors. She was invited to talk about the link between science and art.

15 January, 2019

Volkskrant article on cardiac stem cells

Renée contributed to an article in the Volkskrant by journalist Nienke Zoetbrood.

The piece focuses on a recent study by Hans Clevers and colleagues and discusses the scientific quest to demonstrate the existence (or absence) of cardiac stem cells.

12 January, 2019

Evo-Devo talk for high school teachers

On Saturday morning Renée gave a talk at the 2019 NIBI conference for high school teachers, which was held in Lunteren. This year’s theme was "Evolutie in Actie" ("evolution in action") and the program offered a dazzling number of (interactive) lectures and workshops covering all aspects of evolution.

Renée covered multiple aspects of development, covering both shared features of the body plan in multicellular animals (axis formation, segmentation) as well as fascinating species specific traits - such as why elephants don’t get cancer or the polydactyly observed in Hemingway cats.
In doing so, the audience of about 75 people dove deep into the secrets of the DNA.
Hopefully everyone will return to their classroom inspired - determined to no longer use the term "junk DNA" and ready to dazzle the next generation of biologists with new insights into the molecular mechanisms of chromatin packaging, long-range regulatory enhancers and CRISPR gene-editing technology.

12 January, 2019

First preprint for the lab

We published our first pre-print on Biorxiv:


First author is Tanne van der Wal, who did her BSc internship in the lab. Co-authors are Jan-Paul Lambooij (a technician from the Netherlands Cancer Institute who performed a lot of the experiments together with Renée way back when) and Katrin Wiese (who was instrumental in helping with the FACS analysis to determine the orientation of the TMEM98 protein in the cell membrane).

As detailed in this thread on Twitter, this story has been a long time in the making.

The gist of the story in layman’s terms/for the general public:
We know that the human genome contains the information to make approximately 20,000 different proteins. But we know very little about the molecular function of many of these proteins. Finding out what a specific protein is doing inside the cell can be a lot of hard work: You have to figure out where it hangs out, who it is interacting with and which molecular processes it is affecting.
In this study, we investigated the role and behavior of a protein called TMEM98. We found out that it travels to many different locations inside the cell, including the plasma membrane. We also studied the interaction between TMEM98 and another protein, called FRAT2 - which can activate the WNT signaling pathway (and this is one of the important molecular routes that cells use to communicate with each other: because of that, WNT signaling is a main focus of research in our lab).

Why is this important? Well, the TMEM98 gene has been found to be mutated in patients with an eye disorder called nanophthalmos. These patients are at higher risk of developing glaucoma. Understanding the role of this protein can, in the future, hopefully help explain the origin of this disorder. Finally, recent studies also suggest that the TMEM98 protein may play a role in cancer, atherosclerosis and immune cell differentiation. Our study provides a small piece of the puzzle for ultimately understanding of how TMEM98 works to control so many different aspects of cell behavior.

4 January, 2019

Welcome Rianne

Rianne started her first MSc internship in December. She joined the other Molecular Cytology internship students for a cloning class under the supervision of Anna, and imaged her first fluorescent fusion protein constructs before Christmas!
She will be working under the joint supervision of Saskia and Marten Postma on the functional imaging of Wnt signal transduction.

1 January, 2019

Next step for Anoeska

Today was officially the last day that Anoeska was employed as a PhD student. We were already slowly getting used to this, as she had been working in the lab part time since taking on a new job as management assistant in our institute.

We celebrated with some goodbye cake and a picture in her new office, which is only a few doors down from the rest of the lab. The chapters for the thesis have been outlined and there are plenty of exciting data to be discussed - so here’s to a smooth writing process. Good luck Anoeska!

21 December, 2018

ENBDC Think Tank in Bilbao

Renée visited Bilbao for the second time in two weeks (what are the chances...) for a Think Tank meeting of the ENBDC organizing committee. Maria del Mar Vivanco took excellent care of the organization, which not only included the scientific program but also some really good pintxos.
It was good to discuss science for a full day without any other distractions - especially in such great company.

13 December, 2018

Thesis defense in Bilbao

Renee chaired the PhD thesis defense committee of Virginia Murillo, who did her PhD research with Dr. Robert Kypta at CIC bioGUNE in Bilbao. The defense took place at the University of the Basque country and ensured interesting scientific discussions about WNT11 and FZD8 and their role in prostate cancer.

Family and friends ensured that delicious local wine and home cooked dishes were available to celebrate after the defense, so it was both a scientific and culinary highlight. On top of that, it is nice to see the similarities and differences between PhD defenses in so many different countries and now Spain can be added to the list.

30 November, 2018

The lab turns 5

It is a little hard to believe that we can already celebrate our five year anniversary: Apparently time indeed flies when you are having fun (or when you do not stop to smell the roses).
Renée is very proud of the entire Wntlab, because together we have been able to set up an entire line of research at the University of Amsterdam from scratch. The first PhD thesis is going to be written and we are about to start profiting from some of our longer-term efforts and investments.

A thread with "5 things I learned as a PI" apparently struck a chord and gained some traction on Twitter. See if you agree by reading it here.

We celebrated small with some impromptu drinks (and a bit of cake and fireworks - very befitting of a 5-year old) and hope to get together for a reunion with all of our student alumni soon.

1 November, 2018

Wrapping up the Grassroots project

The computer game that was developed as part of the Grassroots project (awarded to Renee and Gooitzen Zwanenburg in the fall of 2017) was put to the test by the third year BSc students in the Frontiers in Medical Biology course.

Thanks to Abel Stam, the board game was shapeshifted into version 1.0 of a visual model of stem cell division in the intestinal crypt. It can already be used to illustrate principal concepts of stem cell biology. In the future, we hope to develop it into a version that can be used to essentially perform lineage tracing analyses in silico - thus mimicking an expensive and time consuming experiment that is normally performed in vivo.

16 October, 2018

Wnt meeting 2018 in Heidelberg

The entire lab travelled to Heidelberg, a beautiful old town in the south of Germany (its university was founded in 1386) for the European Wnt meeting 2018. It was organized by Michael Boutros, Thomas Holstein and Christof Niehrs on behalf of the Collaborative Research Center SFB1324 (which concentrates research on the mechanisms and functions of Wnt signaling).

The entire lab after the poster session on Thursday.

Renée gave a talk and the rest of the lab presented posters, which everybody got to pitch in front of the entire audience in a one-minute flash talk. As icing on the cake, Anoeska won one of the two poster prizes (sponsored by Nikon) for her poster on our new Axin2 lineage tracing/reporter model, which we hopefully will be able to share with the rest of the community soon.

Anoeska accepting her poster prize on Friday

The meeting was densely packed with people and (unpublished) data - starting at 9:00 in the morning with poster sessions running until well after 20:00 in the evenings. On top of that it was great to catch up with old friends, talk to new people and discuss all of the exciting research going on worldwide. Lots of efforts are ongoing to understand signaling specificity at the level of ligands and receptors, with new FZD crystal structures being solved and novel agonists and antagonists being developed in multiple labs. At the same time, it is clear that we still do not understand how either Wnt gene expression or the tissue specific responses to Wnt signaling are controlled at the molecular level - confirming that we are asking the right questions in our current research projects.

The conference chairs did an excellent job putting together the scientific and social program, which included a trip to the Pompeii inspired Schloss Villa Ludwigshöhe for Renée on the final day of the conference (one of the perks of being an invited speaker).
Hopefully everybody will arrive back in the lab fresh and inspired, with plenty of ideas for experiments or the writing of their thesis, new questions and an up-to-date view of knowledge gaps in the field!

For those who cannot wait until the next Wnt meeting: Mark your calendars for the 2019 GRC on Wnt signaling in Vermont (USA) and start saving for a trip in September 2020, when Akira Kikuchi will organize the Wnt meeting in Japan!

17 September, 2018

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