van Amerongen Lab - Developmental, Stem Cell & Cancer Biology

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


Saskia visits the NIH

After a long period of insecurity as to whether travel to the United States would actually be possible mid-pandemic, a small miracle happened and Saskia left for a research visit to the NIH, where she will be working in the lab of Andres Lebensohn for the last part of her PhD.

We already adjusted the time of our weekly lab meetings so Saskia can still join from across the pond as she sets up this exciting research collaboration.

This visit was made possible by a grant from the Nijbakker Morra foundation and a Fulbright Scholarship.

19 March, 2021

First seminar since the start of the pandemic

Renée gave her first talk since November 2019 (not counting teaching and outreach activities).

After still teaching a class on mouse models to the first year BSc students biomedical sciences on Friday afternoon, the wonders of the internet allowed her to present unpublished work from the lab at East Carolina University in the United States on Friday evening.

The seminar was hosted by Dr. Maranke Koster, and while it would have been nicer to visit in person and interact with a live audience, it was good to virtually visit an old friend and present a new story!

19 February, 2021

Welcome students

We did our best to create as many internship positions as we possible could to minimize the impact of the pandemic on the training of our MSc students.

Four out of five students started today. Melanie will be working under the supervision of Tanne to figure out how CTNNB1 balances cell adhesion and WNT signaling. Omayma, Jobana and Jenny will work under the supervision of Renee on projects that are more data analysis driven. Using online tools and existing datasets, they will generate new hypotheses for follow up research in the lab - all with the goal of gaining a better understanding of tissue-specific initiation and interpretation of WNT/CTNNB1 signaling.

As a joint side project, the goal is to also make a lab wiki highlighting and describing these online tools and workflows.

2 February, 2021

Thijs joins the lab as a new staff scientist

Thijs van Boxtel started in the lab today. He will split his time as an assistant professor between research and teaching and brings with him many years of experience in developmental biology.

Welcome Thijs!

1 February, 2021

Announcing the start of our artist in residence program

We are excited to officially announce the start of our lab’s artist-in-residence program.

As this week is our National Poetry Week, this is also a fitting moment to introduce our first affiliated artist, Dutch poet Rosa Schogt.

It is our long-term goal to embed one new artist in our lab for a period of 6-12 months every calendar year and hopefully we can raise sufficient funds to ensure continuity. We aim to offer an inspiring environment - the rest is up to the artist.
Do you think you might be interested in becoming our next artist in residence? Do you want to support this effort financially? Then go ahead and contact Renée for more information.

(NL) We zijn blij dat we eindelijk de officiële start van ons artist-in-residence programma kunnen aankondigen. We hopen dat we in de toekomst op structurele basis kunstenaars van divers pluimage (schrijvers, schilders, beeldhouwers, performance artists) voor een periode van 6-12 maanden een inspirerende omgeving kunnen bieden.

Met veel trots introduceren we de eerste kunstenaar die tot en met december aan ons lab verbonden zal zijn: dichter Rosa Schogt, die in 2019 debuteerde met haar bundel "Dansen te ontspringen".
Deze aankondiging komt, alsof het zo gepland is, midden in de Poëzieweek, die als thema "samen" heeft. We hopen dat er in de komende maanden inderdaad een mooie verbinding gaat ontstaan tussen kunst en wetenschap.

Heb jij interesse om onze volgende artist-in-residence te worden? Of wil je dit initiatief financieel steunen? Neem dan contact op met Renée voor meer informatie.

Bekijk het optreden van Rosa Schogt tijdens de nacht van de poëzie, die zij in 2019 mocht afsluiten:

Dit schreef de Volkskrant over Rosa’s debuut bundel:

30 January, 2021

Happy Holidays

We are taking a short break for the Christmas holidays!

24 December, 2020

Mini college recorded

In between re-organizing the lab, wrapping up before Christmas and juggling the pandemic, Renée recorded a mini college on stem cells and cancer (in Dutch) in the FNWI recording studio.

It is now available at the Open Huis website.

Usually this is part of the "Bachelor Voorlichtingsdagen" for interested high school students and their parents, but these events too could, unfortunately, not be held in real life this year.

15 December, 2020

Review article on CTNNB1 published

Our review on CTNNB1, written by Tanne and Renée, came out today as an Open Access article in Open Biology.

You can access it here, or you can go straight to the PDF by clicking here.

So head on over to the Royal Society (that does make one feel like a 17th/18th century scholar, doesn’t it) to read "Walking the tight wire between cell adhesion and WNT signalling: a balancing act for beta-catenin". You know you want to!

9 December, 2020

Paper accepted

Our paper "How to use online tools to generate new hypotheses for mammary gland biology research: a case study for Wnt7b", previously available as a pre-print, has found a permanent home in the Journal of Mammary Gland Biology and Neoplasia.

Congratulations to Yorick and Nika!

25 November, 2020

Review accepted

Today we celebrated that Tanne’s review article on the dual function of CTNNB1 in cell adhesion and WNT signaling was accepted for publication in Open Biology.

Scientific details will follow as soon as the link to the final PDF is available. For now, we are happily awaiting the proofs and enjoying this bit of tangible output of working from home in the midst of a pandemic.

Congratulations Tanne!

19 November, 2020

Recruiting a staff scientist

We are recruiting a staff scientist (UD level, assistant professor). This is a non-tenure track position (50/50 teaching/research).

For details, see the official vacancy at the UvA website or over at Academic Transfer.

The deadline for applying is 7 December 2020 and we hope to still interview candidates before the Christmas break. You can contact Renée for more information.

9 November, 2020

The lab gets an official name

Amidst all of the COVID-19 craziness, 2020 also brought an exciting highlight:

The lab got an official name and now forms the Developmental, Stem Cell and Cancer Biology (DSCCB) research group in the Cell & Systems Biology cluster of the Swammerdam Institute for Life Sciences.

We still refer to ourselves as "the Wntlab" because it rolls off the tongue a bit easier.

24 October, 2020

Celebrating things worth celebrating - COVID style

We had planned to celebrate the start of Ingeborg’s appointment with a lab lunch in the Polder, but the Dutch Coronvirus measures got tightened - so those plans had to be cancelled and we had to improvise.

Our N=6 was just small enough to fit into the SILS common room at a safe social distance and all snacks were safely and properly aliquoted into individual portions.

Shortly after, the Corona protocol got updated and the rules got tightened even further, so we can now only do social experiments with a max. of N=4, unfortunately. Which only goes to show that you have to seize an opportunity when it presents itself!

8 October, 2020

Tanne and Renée talk about breasts on Radio Swammerdam

October is breast cancer awareness month - a very good reason for Radio Swammerdam to focus their weekly hour of science radio on the breast.
Tanne hosted the broadcast on Sunday morning 4 October and Renée joined as a guest. If you missed it, you can listen to the Radio Swammerdam podcast:

4 October, 2020

Ingeborg joins the lab as a new technician

We welcome Ingeborg Hooijkaas, who joined the lab on 1 October as our new technician.

Despite the pandemic, and with lots of us still spending considerable amounts of our time working from home, we hope that Ingeborg will quickly feel at home and be able to get up and running in the lab. Hopefully it will not be too long before she can get to meet all of her SILS colleagues face to face.

1 October, 2020

New pre-print: How to use online tools to generate new hypotheses for mammary gland biology research

We are excited to announce a new pre-print, "How to use online tools to generate new hypotheses for mammary gland biology research: a case study for Wnt7b", which is now available via Biorxiv.

Born out of necessity during the working from home phase of the pandemic in the spring of 2020, we (well, Yorick) finally had some time to thoroughly explore a bunch of online tools and datasets. After combining this online discovery tour with some existing work by Nika, we wrote this paper.

We are happy that the pre-print quickly got recognized on Twitter as an opportunity for dry-lab student projects:

In fact, we are crafting some of our own internship positions for the 2020-2021 academic year around this idea as well. We cannot possibly host all of the students that have applied for an internship position in our lab, but at least in this way we can give multiple students the option of joining our lab even when wet lab internship positions are scarce.

Hopefully, the students can also contribute to the start of our lab Wiki.

22 September, 2020

Hybrid lab meeting

All of our lab meetings are still held via Zoom, but today we succumbed to the temptation and held the lab meeting in a hybrid format (at a safe distance and sticking to the maximum occupancy of the meeting room): Only Saskia was working from home.

Tanne and Yorick had experiments to perform in the lab and Renée was on campus for one of only two live lectures with the Frontiers in Medical Biology BSc students (which was also hybrid, running via Zoom with an owl so two students who could not make it to campus could attend).

2 September, 2020

Paper published in Genesis

The first mouse model generated in the lab has now been published as an open access paper in Genesis. You can get the PDF here if you want something that looks a bit prettier than the original preprint.

Congrats to all authors!

9 July, 2020

Paper accepted!

Our study "A novel Axin2 knock-in mouse model for visualization and lineage tracing of WNT/CTNNB1 responsive cells" by van de Moosdijk & van de Grift et al. was accepted for publication in genesis.

25 June, 2020

Fulbright Scholarship and Nijbakker-Morra fellowship awarded to Saskia de Man

In the spring of 2020, Saskia was awarded a Fulbright scholarship as well as a fellowship from the Nijbakker-Morra foundation. These funds will allow a short research visit to the United States.
A really cool collaboration is ready for take-off and we hope that the COVID-19 pandemic and travel restrictions will soon be lifted so Saskia can embark on this exciting scientific adventure.

20 June, 2020

New pre-print: Quantitative live cell imaging of WNT/CTNNB1 signaling dynamics

We are really excited to announce that we just posted a new pre-print on Biorxiv

PhD student Saskia de Man is first author on (and very much the driving force behind) this story, which combines CRISPR/Cas9-mediated genome editing in haploid cells, with quantitative live-cell imaging and computational modeling. This work is a collaboration with Mark Hink and Gooitzen Zwanenburg, both also from the Swammerdam Institute for Life Sciences (SILS).

Using CRISPR/Cas9, Saskia generated a scarless knock-in of SGFP2 into the endogenous CTNNB1 locus, resulting in the expression of a fully functional fluorescent CTNNB1 fusion protein. By using haploid cells, we ensured that all tagging events were homozygous. She then performed quantitative microscopy analysis using confocal time-lapse imaging, fluorescence correlation spectroscopy and number & brightness analysis to investigate the different functional pools of CTNNB1 in the cytoplasm and nucleus in the absence and presence of a WNT stimulus.

Check out the paper if you want to know all about the distribution of CTNNB1 across a fast diffusing, monomeric pool and a slow diffusing complex-associated pool, or if you are curious about the first ever in cellulo measurements of the absolute concentration of CTNNB1 in each of these different fractions, which we have also used to build a computational model for WNT/CTNNB1 signaling that reveals three critical nodes of regulation in our favorite signal transduction pathway. And there are really pretty movies too!

Congratulations to Saskia on this fine piece of work, which cost blood, sweat and multiple years. The feedback we got at the 2019 Gordon Research Conference on WNT signaling has really inspired us to whip this story into it’s final shape and we are happy that it is now ready to meet the world.

28 May, 2020

Playing with Science

ARTEZ students Iris Beek and Moritz Brill presented the outcome of their residency at Filip Studios in Arnhem, where they worked on the case study "Playing with Science", for which Renée was the case holder.

As always, it was inspiring and informative to witness how artists approach a scientific question, with exciting potential for future developments (of the project and the collaboration).

image by Iris Beek and Moritz Brill

21 May, 2020

Comment in Bionieuws

Renée was featured in the latest issue of Bionieuws, where she was asked to comment on a recent paper by Caleb Dawson and colleagues from the lab of Jane Visvader. The paper describes the discovery and characterization of a population of macrophages (a specific type of immune cell) in the mammary gland. What is really cool is that you can see this population sandwiched in between the basal and luminal epithelial cells of the mammary epithelium.

It is always really nice to be able to provide some background, context and perspective for journalists and the broader public. In this case, it also meant doing a bit of background reading and discovering two related papers published by the labs of Felicity Davis and Christine Watson.
Thanks to the author, Nina Wubben, for making sure that this is a balanced piece that also does not over promise an immediate therapeutic benefit of this basic finding.

The piece (in Dutch) is pasted below.

Those interested in the details should check out the following papers:
Dawson et al. (2020), Nature Cell Biology:
Hitchcock et al. (2020). The FEBS Journal: doi:10.1111/febs.15126
Stewart et al. (2019), Frontiers in Cell and Developmental Biology: doi: 10.3389/fcell.2019.00250

16 May, 2020

Did you catch the easter egg?

The April 30 issue of Cell is out, which means that the perspective that Renée wrote in honor of Roel Nusse winning one of the 2020 International Gairder Awards is now officially published.

Did you catch the easter egg that is hidden in the figure?

WNT proteins are morphogens, which means that they are produced by specific cells and then diffuse (i.e. dilute) as they spread in the nearby surroundings. This spreading occurs in a gradient. As a result, cells that are closer or further removed from the source are exposed to different concentrations of WNT proteins and they are also wired to respond (i.e. activate specific genes) differently to specific concentrations of the protein.
In the textbook, this principle is typically depicted as the "French Flag model" (with blue, white and red zones depicting zones of low, medium and high concentrations of the morphogen). For the occasion, Renée and Tanne (who drew the figure) changed this into a "Dutch Flag model". It still looks the same and just required a bit of tweaking: changing the order to red, white and blue and adding a dash of orange - the Dutch national color- on top.

May this model live long and prosper!

1 May, 2020

Blog post on collaboration between artists and scientists

Renée was featured on the LSE impact blog in a post titled "To drive innovation, scientists should open their doors to more equitable relations with the arts". Written by Paige Jarreau, the piece highlights the unexpected spin offs that can occur from collaborations between artists and scientists.

30 April, 2020

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