van Amerongen Lab - Developmental, Stem Cell & Cancer Biology

- Swammerdam Institute for Life Sciences - University of Amsterdam -  
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News archive

The fifth ENBDC Think Tank

Originally scheduled for December 2020, we finally succeeded in gathering (part of) the ENBDC organising committee in Amsterdam for our annual Think Tank. This fifth addition was co-organized by Renée and Jos Jonkers and was made possible by financial and in kind contributions from the University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands Cancer Institute and Stem Cell Technologies.

We kicked things off with a lovely boat tour along the Amsterdam Light Festival on Wednesday evening. For the actual thinking we gathered in the University Library, where we were treated with views of De Singel from our round table Vondelzaal meeting room.

Stay tuned for the position paper that will come out of this Think Tank.

Thanks to all for coming to Amsterdam (and thanks to Amsterdam for doing its best to look so pretty so we could impress our visitors without any additional human effort).

8 December, 2022

Talk for high school teachers

Previously postponed (courtesy of the pandemic), Renée gave a talk for the Stichting Betapartners about basic breast cancer research and CRISPR/Cas genome editing. In the audience were biology (and other science) teachers for HAVO and VWO, TOAs and people from the LIO trajectory (leraar in opleiding, teacher in training).

Thanks to all the inquisitive and enthusiastic attendees for your attention and for asking original questions we do not typically get!

24 November, 2022

Marleen and Tanne attend the 2022 Wnt meeting in Japan

Marleen and Tanne returned from the 2022 Wnt meeting in Japan, where they both presented posters (and gave a flash talk). Luckily, they also had the opportunity for some sightseeing prior to the start of the conference to fully emerge themselves in Japanese culture.
They shared all of the exciting science (well, highlights of it) with the rest of the lab during lab meeting on the 23rd of November while everything was still fresh.

A big thank you to EMBO, het Amsterdams Universiteitsfonds en de Stichting ter bevordering van het onderzoek in de Biochemie for awarding travel fellowships, allowing us to send our two PhD students to the land of the rising sun as ambassadors of our lab!

23 November, 2022

The lab turns 9

Today marks the official 9 year anniversary of the Wntlab, counting from when Renée started her tenure track at the University of Amsterdam. On to our second lustrum!

1 November, 2022

Update from the midst of the busiest teaching season: team work for the win

There is never a good time to get sick, but the busiest teaching season definitely is not the time - and COVID brain fog and fatigue are definitely real!

Together, Thijs and Renée managed to get all of the teaching done in both the Frontiers in Biomedical Sciences BSc track and the Developmental and Therapeutic Biology MSc track. This included a couple of new lectures on gastruloids, organoids and multi-omics for developmental biology on top of our already existing lectures on stem cells, Nodal/Bmp and Wnt signaling. With Yorick taking the lead in whipping a new developmental (epi)genomics assignment into shape, we managed to expand our contribution to the DTB course ‘Shaping a Human’ (coordinated by Roelof-Jan Oostra at the Amsterdam University Medical Center AMC), while dropping the minimum amount of balls. We think.

28 October, 2022

Dutch chromatin meeting 2022

Marleen and Renée attended the 19th Dutch chromatin meeting in Leiden, where Marleen also presented a poster on our successful efforts to dissect the tissue-specific regulation of Wnt4 gene expression in the mammary gland.
Do not fear you missed it, Wnt aficionados, because the poster will soon be coming to the EMBO meeting on WNT signaling in Japan, where Marleen and Tanne will represent the lab and present their work.

As for the Dutch chromatin meeting: it was a day full of inspiring talks with plenty of opportunity to talk to old, new and we-met-on-Twitter faces. Next year marks the 20th anniversary of the meeting and to celebrate that, it is returning to Amsterdam at the initiative of its founder, Maike Stam. Renée will co-organize this edition together with Maike Stam and Frank Jacobs. More on that in due time.

27 October, 2022

NWO wetenschapscommunicatie

Renée attended the NWO national science communication day in Den Haag (The Hague). While the plenary sessions (including a presentation by image sleuth and scientific integrity consultant Elisabeth Bik) and the breakout rooms were informative (including a working session on the newly formed/forming national center for science communication spearheaded by Alex Verkade and Ionica Smeets), the event was slightly overshadowed by the fact that Renée probably caught COVID there. We are all about cell to cell communication, but this is not what we had in mind.

10 October, 2022

Knowledge videos / Onderwijsvernieuwing

After wrapping up our Frontiers in Medical Biology wetlab practicals with the entire lab, Renée spent the remainder of the afternoon recording two "kennisclips" with Vincent Blum and Edwin van Lacum .

These kennisclips are short, (hopefully) informative videos that should help next year’s students prepare even better before getting to the lab. They should also come in handy now that the Frontiers track is offered as a Minor Biomedical Sciences, meaning that in addition to being the fundamental research track for our third year Biomedische Wetenschappen students, it is also an elective for other students from the Netherlands and abroad, who come in with a variety of backgrounds.

Our first two videos? Two classics! How to operate the fluorescence microscope and how to do an H&E staining. For extra pizazz and playfulness, we also shot some footage with a GoPro. Good luck to Edwin with editing the gazillion takes into something with decent continuity!

7 October, 2022

Weekend van de Wetenschap: De Melkfabriek

While the lab certainly does not have a shortage of outreach activities, this year we took part in the Science Park Open Day during the Weekend van de Wetenschap (Dutch National Weekend of Science) for the first time.

We joined forces with the lab of Aniko Korosi for the occasion, to talk to the general public about the dynamic beauty of breast development and lactation physiology (and of course we slipped in the occasional fun fact about hidden (whale), absent (platypus) or third (some celebrities) nipples on our poster.

The best part, however, was getting to share the joy of exploration and discovery with our visitors ranging from 4 to well over 40, as they got the opportunity to look at mammary gland tissue samples under the microscope. Steady traffic and interest for five straight hours!.

1 October, 2022

Coming up: Weekend van de Wetenschap and Poëzie onder de Microscoop

There are multiple opportunities for the general public to come meet us in October, so come and join us at one of the following events and ask us everything you have always wanted to ask a biologist (we may have partial answers to some of your questions).

On Saturday 1 October we will be at the Science Park Open Day as part of the national Science Weekend (Weekend van de Wetenschap). We are teaming up with the lab of Aniko Korosi for the occasion. So come to us with all your questions about molecules, cells and tissues - and in particular if you want to know how the mammary gland (a.k.a. the breast) grows and develops and ultimately produces milk (and what is in the milk).

Then on Tuesday 11 October, we return to Spui 25 for a reprise of our outreach event "poëzie onder de microscoop" (in Dutch). Our current artist-in-residence, Rosa Schogt, and Renee talk about the link between poetry and science and the language and images that scientists and artists use. Tanne will be moderating the evening.

Unfortunately the SPUI25 event had to be cancelled because too few people signed up for the evening. We are trying to reschedule the event at a later time.

21 September, 2022

Lab trip to Fabrique des Lumieres

In the last quiet week of summer, before the students are back on campus and the teaching starts, we went to the Westergasfabriek to visit the Klimt/Hundertwasser exhibit by Fabrique des Lumieres.

It was immersive and comes highly recommended with thumbs up from all of us. These few stills containing mammary glands really do not do the whole thing justice.

The weather was also still nice so we had a relaxing lunch outside to catch up on what we had been doing during our summer breaks.

1 September, 2022

Goodbye students

Spring passed quickly and updating the website did not get priority.
We did celebrate the arrival and goodbye of our students with drinks and lunches at De Polder, but their pictures never made it onto the website before the end of the academic year.

Luckily we did manage to take this pretty group picture at the end of March before the blossom fell out of the trees so we have a good record of the 2021-2022 cohort!

Thanks for all the exciting science and good times. We wish everyone the best as they continue on in their careers.

31 August, 2022

NWO XL grant awarded

This year saw multiple grant applications and just as many rejections. Despite what Renée told everyone, it turned out she was not yet dulled and the blows still hurt.

Luckily, the reverse also turned out to be true and Thijs and Renée were ecstatic to learn that after a pre-proposal, full proposal, solid interview prep and a stressful but not unpleasant in person interview (which Renée also attended in May), our NWO-XL consortium grant - together with Hendrik Marks (our tireless consortium coordinator and lead applicant from Nijmegen), Simon van Heeringen (also Nijmegen), Jop Kind (Hubrecht) and Tineke Lenstra (NKI) - has been granted.

This picture was taken when we heard the news but it was still under embargo. That called for a quick celebration before other events would dampen the excitement!

This means there is some very exciting embryonic development coming the way of our lab!
We will probably be hiring a new PhD student early in 2023.

Official UvA press release: click here.

Official summary (in Dutch, voor leken) from the NWO website:

30 July, 2022

Summertime journal club

Summer has arrived and the teaching semester is almost over. Time to switch gears and have journal club the way it must have been intended: outside, on a terras, with coffee/tea and apple pie.

6 July, 2022


With the first students approaching the end of their internship, Tanne again hosted our annual lab BBQ. Good times were had by all.

7 June, 2022

Gordon Research Conference on Mammary Gland Biology

Renée travelled to Tuscany, for one of her favorite conferences (and conference locations...), hoping she would not get stuck at Il Ciocco with a positive COVID-19 test (because nobody can afford that).
Luckily this did not happen and Renée chaired a session at the 2022 GRC on Mammary Gland Biology organized by Maria del Mar Vivanco and Bea Howard. Thank you for your tenacity as this was obviously another example of a conference that should have happend two years earlier...

30 May, 2022

Conference travel is back - but science has changed

Spring saw a huge storm in the Netherlands, war in Europe, and the return of in person scientific meetings. The first conferences still felt a bit awkward... do we mask or not? Everyone probably got used to their personal space having a 1.5 meter radius, so sitting side by side in a conference room did take some getting used to.

Renée travelled to Edinburgh by train, as she was an invited speaker at the (long postponed) annual meeting of the UK Genetics Society. Three days with experts on gen(om)e regulation - awesome!

At the end of April, the whole lab travelled to Switzerland for the ENBDC workshop in Weggis. Renée enjoyed seeing old(er) and familiar faces again, while the rest of the lab finally got the chance to meet others in the European mammary gland biology and breast cancer community. Luckily the weather did not disappoint and we could also hike up mount Rigi to enjoy the views.

Zoom seminars are probably here to stay, and Renée was able to also still squeeze in a talk in Sweden on the day before traveling to Switzerland, hosted by Claudio Cantu.
In the summer we followed up by having a shared lab meeting. We do hope to be able to meet up in Linköping or Amsterdam some day though!

30 April, 2022

Financial support for our artist in residency program

We are excited to announce that the Amsterdams Universiteitsfonds has decided to support our application for continuation of our artist in residency program. This means that, with some additional support from FNWI science communication, we can now offer a stipend to next year’s artist (and to our current artist, Rosa Schogt - thank you for being our adventurous guinea pig!).

We know that artists cannot work for free, so having something other than exciting science to offer makes it a lot nicer to recruit new people. In the fall we will launch a call for artists that are physically located in the Netherlands and that are interested in the crossover between art and science.

11 April, 2022

Welcome students!

All of the new students have started their internships, which we celebrated by going out for lunch in De Polder. Time for a quick (because cold and very windy) group picture - alas not fully complete because, well, corona. Better luck next lunch.

We hope that there will be more light (or rather: space) on the horizon as the lab is again at full occupancy and we are still trying to keep 1.5 meters distance...

Thanks to everyone for sticking with it and continuing to make the best of this whole situation! Stay calm, and keep pipetting.

8 February, 2022

In which we present our artist in residence project to the world

Rosa and Renée presented the first results of the artist in residency at SPUI25. There was room for a small live audience, with others watching the livestream at home.

The topic of the evening was "Poezie onder de microscoop" (or "poetry under the microscoop"), in which we asked the question: is the lab a place for poetry? Wat can science and poetry learn from each other?

We especially liked how interactive the evening was - so thank you to all the audience members for actively participating in the discussion and thank you to Gemma Venhuizen for moderating the evening.

This first presentation has left us hungry for more, so ware are now contemplating ways to follow up. Yes, we are available for parties and conferences and meetings.

You can still watch the recording of the evening here:

The first blog posts inspired by this evening have also appeared online:
The first based on the question whether our science is actually already art can be found here and the second one inspired by a technical glitch in the matrix can be found here (both in Dutch).

1 February, 2022

PhD defense: Anoeska becomes dr. Van de Moosdijk

Today Anoeska defended her PhD thesis in de Agnieten kapel in Amsterdam - just in time before stricter COVID-19 measures were announced, so there was even the possibility for (sit down) drinks and a proper celebration afterwards.

Anoeska passed the defense with flying colors - which is very fitting for a thesis that incorporates so many fluorescent proteins in so many chapters (and so many different mouse strains - kudos for taking on and finishing that challenging project!).
You can find the thesis here and all mouse models (two still unpublished, but we are working on that) should become available via Jackson labs soon.

Since Anoeska still works at SILS, our ways will not part - but with the thesis out of the way we can now only talk about other things! Congratulations, dr. Van de Moosdijk!

16 November, 2021

Wntlab You Tube channel launch

The lab officially turns 8 years old today. A good reason to launch our YouTube channel with one of the first videos we ever made from data produced in the lab by Anoeska van de Moosdijk: A bifurcating terminal end bud with WNT-responsive stem cells scattered throughout. This experiment ultimately resulted in one grant, three new mouse models and the PhD thesis of Anoeska!

Why You Tube? Well, as scientists we are the ultimate content creators!
Find us here:

Still a bit empty for now (and fear not, as soon as we have enough subscribers and content we can apply for a shorter channel name), but we think this will be the best place to drop some pretty movies that otherwise only ever end up in a slide show that too few people will ever see.

1 November, 2021

#BreastCancerAwarenessMonth (2)

The University of Amsterdam Press Communications Office (UvA Persvoorlichting) highlighted the lab on their Instagram account. This time, there was time and space (albeit in 15 second snippets and soundbites) to stress our fundamental research.

Instagram stories are fleeting, but luckily we received all of the original materials so we can also share them here on our own website. We are quite happy with the recordings of our dynamic lab life (and equally happy that the orange G buffer on the vortex made it into the final cut).

With these promotional materials we really no longer have an excuse to not start a lab You Tube channel.

14 October, 2021

#BreastCancerAwarenessMonth (1)

Renée was featured in a newspaper article in "Het Reformatorisch Dagblad" because of Breast Cancer Awareness Week.

She said many interesting things about the importance of basic breast cancer research, but mainly the blurbs that came closer to the patient made it into the final article.

Perhaps it is good to know that when we talk to journalists we always stress that we are "not that type of doctor" and therefore we have to be careful in answering some questions as we cannot and should not give medical advise or make statements on treatment and outcome.

11 October, 2021

Nacht van de poezie

Our artist in residence, Rosa Schogt, had the honor of being the opening act of the 38th Dutch Poetry Night. One of the poems she read was "Het verband tussen snelheid en massa" (The link between speed and mass), which she wrote earlier this year inspired by our work. As you can tell from the audience response, this poem needs to sink in.

2 October, 2021

Goodbye Saskia!

We had dinner in De Polder to say goodbye to Saskia, who is moving on to the next step in her career. She will start a new job at Ocello in October.

Nika (who is very happy at uniQure and Anoeska (who is preparing for her defense in November) also joined us. For some reason Renée is the only one in focus in the picture, but a good time was had by all!

16 September, 2021

Review chapter out online

A new review, in which Saskia and Renée zoom in on the working mechanism of the WNT/CTNNB1 destruction complex, came out online today. It looks like the DOI has not been activated yet, but you can access the review (titled "Zooming in on the WNT/CTNNB1 Destruction Complex: Functional Mechanistic Details with Implications for Therapeutic Targeting") here:

We are quite happy with how it turned out and are curious to hear what you think.

13 September, 2021

Goodbye students and welcome Anna!

Before the start of the academic year 2021-2022, we said goodbye to our students (Omayma and Uliana gave their talk before the summer break and handed in their reports, Melanie and Jenny presented their work today and are wrapping up the writing and Jobana will wrap up this month).

We celebrated the end of their pandemic, largely in silico internships with lunch at the Polder and two new group shots, including one in our new composition: Anna joined us today for her 9 month HLO internship.

Welcome Anna and happy trails to everyone who is moving on to the next steps!

1 September, 2021

Interview with Saskia about her research visit to NIH

Who knew? As it turns out, some Fulbright scholarships are sponsored by Elsevier. For this reason, Saskia was interviewed by Elsevier Connect about her view on scientific research and her visit to the NIH, where she spent some time in the Lebensohn lab for the final stages of her PhD thesis research.

You can read the interview here.

4 August, 2021

New pre-print

Just before the summer break we published a new pre-print.

Titled "Hyperactive WNT/CTNNB1 signaling induces a competing cell proliferation and epidermal differentiation response in the mouse mammary epithelium", this study uses a 3D primary mouse mammary organoid culture system to study the immediate (early or direct) consequences of hyper activating the WNT/CTNNB1 response in the mammary gland.

As we know from cumulative work in the field and as also consistently supported by our own experiments, the mammary epithelium is quite sensitive to the absolute levels of WNT/CTNNB1 signaling. In this study we tweak apart the molecular and cellular responses of the mammary epithelium apart in response to low, medium and high levels of WNT/CTNNB1 signaling.

Now let us hope that this study finds a permanent peer-reviewed home (the first rejection landed on our desk when we returned from our summer holidays, so we are now digesting the reviewer comments).

Kudos to everyone in the lab who has contributed to this work over the past 8 (!) years, including former technician Amber Zeeman and former postdocs Larissa Mourao and Katrin Wiese, as well as multiple students who have worked on this project over the years during their MSc internships (Anika, Lieve, Isabel).

28 July, 2021

New publication: Paper accepted in eLife and out online

We are very excited to announce that after a long and strenuous, but altogether very positive and constructive review process, our study "Quantitative live-cell imaging and computational modelling shed new light on endogenous WNT/CTNNB1 signaling dynamics" by De Man et al. has been accepted for publication by eLife!

We are editing the proofs as we speak, but the paper is already out online and can be accessed here:

This tour de force was led by first author Saskia de Man, who is currently on a research visit in the United States. This means that we had to have transatlantic cake moments to celebrate, but that didn’t diminish our joy (and relief). Tanne van der Wal also contributed to the final version of this work, where we combine quantitative live cell imaging and computational biology to determine the absolute amounts and complex states of endogenous wildtype CTNNB1 and an oncogenic S45F mutant. This was only possible thanks to a collaboration with our colleagues Gooitzen Zwanenburg and Mark Hink. Kudos to Saskia for integrating all of our expertise and staying on top of it all.

We are also very excited that our artist in residence, Rosa Schogt, composed a poem inspired by this work for the occasion, which we are officially launching today to accompany the paper (in Dutch, below):

A Twitter thread with more details can be found here.

For the WNT aficionados: One thing our data reveals is that, contrary to our expectations, the multivalent destruction complex might only have limited occupancy (i.e. rapid turnover and release) of CTNNB1, with higher occupancy only being detectable for the S45F mutant form of CTNNB1.

We draw an analogy between the destruction complex and an old fashioned waterwheel: "Even if the multivalent destruction complex offers multiple CTNNB1 binding sites, occupancy at any one time might be low, due to the continuous and high turnover of CTNNB1. In this respect, the CTNNB1 bindings sites in the destruction complex could be envisioned to act similar to the wooden vanes in the paddle wheel of an old-fashioned watermill: like the water in the analogous example, CTNNB1 would be continuously scooped up (for phosphorylation) and dropped off (for degradation)."

We were afraid that the figure we drew to illustrate this concept would not be deemed quite scientific enough, so we only included it in one of our rebuttals (thank you, Reviewer 1, for liking this analogy). So here it is for the more visually inclined:

9 July, 2021

The very first Wntlab PhD defense: Nika becomes dr. Heijmans

On Wednesday morning Nika successfully defended her PhD thesis, thereby becoming the first dr. to come out of the lab. Congratulations Nika on such a beautiful thesis and a job well done!

Luckily, the COVID-19 measures were alleviated just in time for a hybrid defense: while seating was limited, the ceremony did take place in the beautiful old Agnietenkapel in the center of Amsterdam with a beadle and two paranymphs. Two external committee members joined us from Utrecht via livestream, while the president of the committee and the three other committee members along with the promotor and co-promotor were physically present. And, most importantly, some close family, friends and (former) colleagues could attend. After such a long time of online only we are counting our blessings that we got to enjoy something that came really close to a good old fashioned PhD defense!

7 July, 2021


Tanne hosted a lab BBQ to celebrate summer and the (upcoming) end of the BSc and MSc internships. This was the first time we were all together, timed with scientific precision in the week in which COVID-19 levels were at their lowest (that was fun while it lasted).

The students outnumbered other lab members this year, requiring flexibility from all involved. All things considered, we think we have been able to offer decent internship experiences under the circumstances (looking at you, pandemic).

Roasting marshmallows brings out the best (and inner child) in everyone!

7 July, 2021

Coffee break and impromptu lab picture

We had our first coffee break with the entire lab in the new constellation. We can only imagine what exciting development will still occur on this patch of land that makes it look like we live somewhere out in the desert or on a building site (we have high hopes for a Friends style fountain, but it looks like it might just be plain old grass). In either case, the wall did allow us to soak in the sun and pose for a socially distanced lab picture. Let’s hope this is the last 1.5 meters one!

Thank you Eike for taking the picture!

2 June, 2021

Marleen joins the lab as a new PhD student

Today, Marleen started as a PhD student in the lab. She will work on dissecting how tissue specific WNT signalling is initiated and interpreted. Hopefully in the next few years, we will solve some longstanding questions together.

Welcome Marleen!

1 June, 2021

New publication: Behind the scenes of the human breast cell atlas project

Renee wrote a perspective for a special edition of the Journal of Mammary Gland Biology and Neoplasia that focuses on single-cell techniques. She also served as guest editor for this special issue, together with Zuzana Koledova (Czech republic) and Edith Kordon (Argentina).

The special issue is still being finalized, but the paper came out today and is available as an open access article here. Thanks to Kai Kessenbrock, Whalid Khaled, Devon Lawson, Harikrishna Nakshatri and Nicholas Navin, who shared their first-hand experiences to get this behind the scenes look.

29 April, 2021

Publication from a collaboration

Good things come to those who wait and patience is a virtue. These words definitely apply to this study that was just accepted for publication in Development.

Titled "MEIS-WNT5A axis regulates development of 4th ventricle choroid plexus", this paper dissects in great detail how a particular part of the fluid filled spaces in our brain (the so called ventricles) develops. Within these ventricles, a tissue called the choroid plexus is responsible for producing the fluid that fills these spaces. This so called cerebrospinal fluid extends all the way down to our spine (and now you know where Spinal Tap got its name).

Renee is a co-author on this study, which was led by Karol Kaiser and Vita Bryja in a collaboration with groups in Boston and Stockholm. As for the tiny little part that we contributed: somewhere between 2011 and 2014 Renee performed timed matings with the Wnt5a transgenic mouse model while being on the tenure track and setting up the lab. Over the years, we have watched this work progress from posters to PhD theses to a pre-print and now a formally peer reviewed and accepted paper.

We are glad to work in a field where we have colleagues that still remember such contributions almost a decade later and we hope to pay it forward. At the same time, this story underscores how much effort and how many years of work can go into getting a story published these days, but that is something for another post.

update 31 May 2021: now officially published.
Development (2021) 148 (10): dev192054.

26 April, 2021

ENBDC Weggis workshop

No fresh mountain air or foggy morning views across the lake, unfortunately, as the ENBDC Methods Workshop was held via zoom this year. On the bright side, this meant we could afford to take all of our MSc students to an international conference! Hopefully the organizers do not mind that our BSc students also dropped by for the Friday morning session on development.

To add a bit of atmosphere instead of turning this into just another zoom event, we watched the talks and had lunch together at the appropriate social distance.

22 April, 2021

Welcome Demi and Tiba

For the first time in history, we will have two BSc students joining the lab while performing their actual lab work more remotely in one of the teaching buildings.
Thanks to the creative improvisation skills of everyone involved in our Biomedical Sciences program, some of the BSc internships can continue in this way.

Demi an Tiba picked our project and will be running back and forth between the teaching lab and Thijs’ office for specific help and advice for when the cloning gets tough. They will also join our lab meetings, so they will hopefully still feel like part of the lab despite this long distance solution.

1 April, 2021

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

Welcome Uliana

Uliana is the last MSc student to join the lab for this academic year. She will join Jenny, Jobana and Omayma in using multiple online tools to generate new hypotheses for follow up research.

1 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

Lab life in times of the COVID-19 pandemic

Like everyone else on the planet, we are dealing with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic as best as we can. We went into work-from-home mode on 16 March with only a few critical experiments continuing and are staying in touch via Zoom (for group meetings) and Skype (for 1-on-1 meetings).

The most important thing right now is that everybody tries to stay healthy and sane as we are mostly cooped up inside to #FlattenTheCurve.
Working from home under these conditions is definitely not your average working-from-home day where you can quietly focus and concentrate on the work at hand. The news and a surreal "new normal" are a constant distraction - as are the questions and uncertainties about how all of this is affecting the progress of PhD trajectories.

Two new internships students, Femke and Zino, joined our lab for their BSc and MSc internships earlier this year. Their practical training was brutally interrupted, but official arrangements are now in place from the Biomedical Sciences program to deal with this situation. Femke is developing some CellProfiler skills under the supervision of Tanne using an existing dataset from Saskia and Zino is interrupting his internship on Wnt reporters in 3D organoid cultures under the supervision of Yorick to first write his literature thesis.

So far, everyone else has also made great efforts to be as productive as possible under the circumstances. Renee is still making her way through the original to do list and is finding out that Zoom meetings are much more tiring than meeting people in person. Larissa, Saskia, Tanne and Yorick are all writing drafts of papers/reviews/thesis chapters. While everyone can keep themselves busy for a couple of weeks in this way, we have also begun thinking about how we can potentially pick up our experimental work again in the longer term.

Hang in there everyone!

Our 2020 lab picture is a screenshot from one of our zoom meetings

9 April, 2020

New pre-print

We are happy to share a pre-print describing the generation and characterization of the first mouse model we built in the lab. Read it here.

Former PhD student Anoeska van de Moosdijk and current PhD student Yorick van de Grift are joint first authors, with other important contributions by PhD student Saskia de Man and technician Amber Zeeman. This work was funded by a 2015 grant from KWF Kankerbestrijding/Alpe d’HuZes. With a special thanks to the patient advocate on the interview selection committee who understood and supported the basic research that is required for long-term progress and stepwise innovation as we try to build better models for cancer research.

For those interested in the details: We generated a new 3’ knock-in in the Axin2 locus to allow both direct visualization (3xNLS-SGFP2 reporter) and lineage tracing (using a doxycycline inducible rtTA3) of WNT/CTNNB1 responsive cells. The strain can be combined with a tetO- and/or lineage-tracing reporter of interest. We are in the process of submitting this strain to an international repository so we can share it as broadly and quickly as possible with the rest of the scientific community.

4 April, 2020

Essay on the contributions of Roel Nusse to the Wnt signaling field

Today it was announced that Roel Nusse is one of the winners of the 2020 Gairdner Award. In honor of his contributions to the field of Wnt signaling and its broader implications in cancer and stem cell biology, Renée wrote an invited essay for Cell.
Thanks to Tanne for designing the figure!

The piece is available as Open Access publication here and can also be downloaded as a PDF file here.

31 March, 2020

NWO Grant awarded

Renée was awarded a Klein1 grant in the NWO open competition. Using a combination of quantitative live cell imaging and fluorescent tagging of endogenous Wnt pathway components, we hope to achieve a better understanding of the central working mechanism of the WNT/CTNNB1 pathway.

This is the first funding we got for this new line of research in the lab, thanks in large part to all of the preliminary data that were carefully collected by Saskia over the past few years, in close collaboration with Mark Hink.

See the Dutch abstract below from the NWO website:.

26 March, 2020

Short review on WNT/CTNNB1 signaling in breast cancer

We published a short review article on the role of WNT/CTNNB1 signaling in human breast cancer in Frontiers in Cell and Developmental Biology, as part of the special topic on mammary gland biology (edited by Dr. Zuzana Koledova from Masryk University).

The review article was inspired by and based on an MSc literature thesis, written by Emma van Schie (who is first author on the paper). The best outcome of research based teaching! It also helped Renée organize her thoughts on the current knowledge gaps in the field.

2 February, 2020

First publication of 2020

We published our first paper in 2020! Previously out as a pre-print on BioRxiv we are happy that our study about the interaction between TMEM98 and FRAT2 found a peer-reviewed home in Plos One.

First author Tanne van der Wal just started her PhD in October, and this is earlier work from her BSc internship. Taking old data from Renée that had been accumulating since 2004, we wrapped up the characterization of the trafficking of this transmembrane protein and verified that 15 years after the start of this project across town at the Netherlands Cancer Institute this transmembrane protein still modulates FRAT2 protein levels, thereby reducing WNT/CTNNB1 signaling activity.

It was a nice bonus to see Figure 2 from the paper being highlighted on Twitter for #FluorescenceFriday.

24 January, 2020

Lecture about genome editing

On Monday evening 13 January, Renée gave a lecture for members and guests of the "Chemische Kring" (society of chemists) in Rotterdam about the ins and outs of gene editing. The lecture hall at the "Hogeschool Rotterdam" was filled with an exciting mixture of chemists, biologists (including some students who came to attend after working with CRISPR/Cas in the lab themselves) and the occasional philosopher.

We talked about bacterial immune systems, CRISPR babies and the history of cutting and pasting with DNA. Hopefully there was enough depth for the chemists and not too much detail for the less molecularly inclined!

13 January, 2020

NEMO Kinderlezing

Renee gave the last NEMO Kinderlezing of 2019 . This time the topic was aging. A lot of 8-12 year olds came to the NEMO Studio Theater and together we went searching for an answer to the question: "How old can I get?"

That took us on a journey deep inside our bodies, where we peaked into the cells to figure out how cells know what to do, to see how the DNA and mitochondria work, and to discover how little mistakes and malfunctions in these microscopically small components contribute to aging. We also talked about extending life span, and how new techniques like cutting-and-repairing our DNA might one day prevent us from getting old or sick.
But this crowd was not fooled very easily and the morning lecture essentially ended with a philosophical question from one of the younger kids: Why do we want to live forever? Can we just not accept the fact that life has an end to it? This was followed by a sobering conclusion from the first row that even if we were able to extend life into all eternity, the universe itself has a final lifespan. On that note, we all had a look at some cells under the microscope and went home. A little bit older, but also a little bit wiser.

Thanks to all the kids for asking such interesting questions, for offering your perspective and for making me need all of my science fiction and space knowledge to keep up with you! And of course thanks to everyone at NEMO and FNWI communication for the awesome help in prepping for this audience.

image credit: Marion Vetter

15 December, 2019

ENBDC Think Tank in Manchester

Renee travelled to Manchester, where she met up with the rest of the ENBDC organizing committee for a peptide hydrogel workshop (thanks to everyone involved!) and a full day talking about research gaps in breast (cancer) biology.

image credit: Leander Blaas (via Twitter).

Thank you to Rob Clarke for running such an entertaining and smoothly organized Think Tank and for taking us out to dinner in a former cotton exchange on the UK election evening to drown any Brexit-related sorrow in good conversation.

12 December, 2019

Seminar in Aberdeen

Renee gave a talk at the University of Aberdeen, the third oldest university in Scotland. She got to talk about science with loads of different and interesting people all day, which is always a bonus. Thank you to Stefan Hoppler for the invitation and for making this such an enjoyable visit, including the sampling of the local pub food and Indian cuisine!

28 November, 2019

Master class for artists and designers

Renee gave a masterclass for artists and designers at Filip Studios in Arnhem on pattern formation in biology and the molecular processes that normally take place unseen inside our cells.
It was good to meet up with Roos Meerman again, with whom the lab previously collaborated as part of the BioArt and Design Award competition. Thanks also to Sabine Winters for organizing this residency program and for the invitation!

12 November, 2019

Seminar by Jeroen van Zon

Jeroen van Zon, group leader on Quantitative Developmental Biology at AMOLF, visited us from just across the street to give a talk about his work on worms and intestinal organoids. A great example of how biology and physics can be combined to yield new insights about how cell division and differentiation are controlled to guide the development and maintenance of complex animal tissues.

8 November, 2019

Nika presents our work in Chicago

Nika presented her work at the Cell Symposium on Transcriptional Regulation in Evolution, Development and Disease in Chicago. She got good feedback on her work on Wnt gene regulation (a joint effort with Katrin and Yorick), which means that now it is on to writing the PhD thesis!

20 October, 2019

Keynote lecture at the Finnish Developmental Biology Society and Stem Cell Network meeting

Renee gave a keynote lecture at the Finnish Developmental Biology Society and Stem Cell Network during their annual retreat just outside of Helsinki. The awesome opening keynote by Josh Brickman was a tough act to follow... It was great to interact and hang out with so many stem cell and developmental biology aficionados for a couple of days. Very impressed by the cool science that is going on in Finland!

Thanks to Marja Mikkola, who turned out to be an excellent tour guide in addition to a developmental biologist, Renee also caught a glimpse of Helsinki on Saturday.

11 October, 2019

Outreach lecture

High school teachers and their students visited the University of Amsterdam for lectures and a behind-the-scenes tour of some of our labs and facilities. Renée gave a talk on the basic science behind stem cell biology and regenerative medicine.

2 October, 2019

Tanne has joined the lab as a new PhD student

On 1 October Tanne van der Wal started her PhD thesis research in the group. She will be dissecting the molecular mechanisms of WNT/CTNNB1 signaling using CRISPR/Cas9 mediated tagging and functional imaging.

1 October, 2019

Poster prize for Saskia de Man at the 2019 GRC on Wnt signalling

Saskia and Renée attended the 2019 GRC on Wnt signaling in Vermont.

Preceding the GRC, Saskia attended the GRS, where she chaired one of the sessions. Renée also chaired a session at the GRC, organised the power hour and gave a talk highlighting the lab’s ongoing work on Wnt gene regulation and functional imaging of Wnt signal transduction. Saskia presented her work in one of the GRC poster sessions and, as icing on the cake, won one of the poster prizes.

Saskia receives one of the poster prizes. photo credit: Arial Zeng

It was a great and interactive meeting and we return to the lab invigorated with lots of great feedback and new ideas.
The next Wnt meeting will take place in September 2020 in Japan. The Wnt meeting will return as a GRC meeting in 2021 and 2023 (location to be announced) and rumor has it that the 2022 Wnt meeting may be held in China or Singapore.

16 August, 2019

Veni grant for Katrin Wiese

We are very excited to announce that Katrin Wiese was awarded a Veni grant from NWO (the Dutch Science Foundation). This competitive personal grant allows Katrin to further develop her ideas on Wnt gene regulation and to zoom in on the molecular processes involved for the coming three years.

Congratulations Katrin!

15 July, 2019

Lab lunch

The Bsc students are wrapping up their internships, so the lab went for lunch at De Polder. Goodbye Beau, Delano and Kyah. Thanks for all your hard work and contributions and good luck in your future endeavors!

10 July, 2019

Travel grants for Nika Heijmans and Saskia de Man

Both Nika Heijmans and Saskia de Man were awarded travel grants from the Amsterdams Universiteitsfonds and the Genootschap ter Bevordering van Natuur-, Genees- en Heelkunde.
Thanks to these grants, Nika will be able to present her PhD work at the Cell Symposium on Transcriptional Regulation in Evolution, Development and Disease in Chicago in October and Saskia will present her PhD project at the 2019 GRS and GRC on Wnt signaling in Vermont in August.

1 July, 2019

Seminar in Leuven

Renée visited the Stem Cell Institute in Leuven, Belgium. She gave a talk and spent the entire day talking about science with PhD students, postdocs and group leaders.
Thank you to Willy Antoni Abreu De Oliveira and Frederic Lluis for the invitation and for organising such a great visit.

27 May, 2019

11th ENBDC workshop on mammary gland biology and breast cancer

Renée travelled to Switzerland for the 11th annual meeting of ENBDC members. This also served as an annual reminder for the lab group picture (see icon on the left and the full size image as part of the time capsule on our alumni page).

Zuzana Koledova organized and chaired a fantastic Weggis meeting. Renée presented a poster and also enjoyed the group hike up a very sunny mount Rigi.

17 May, 2019

5 year Wntlab anniversary

We celebrated the 5 year anniversary of the Wntlab by hosting our first reunion for alumni. It was really good to see so many of our former BSc and MSc students return to Science Park and to hear about their diverse and exciting career steps.

10 May, 2019

The blues

Anoeska brought cake to celebrate the first glimpse of a signal in our new mTurquoise reporter. This is the first mouse strain in the lab generated by CRISPR/Cas9 editing (a collaboration with Ivo Huijbers and Lona Kroese at the Netherlands Cancer Institute).

15 April, 2019

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

Visit to Basel

Renee visited Basel for a PhD committee meeting and a seminar. In addition to presenting some of our newest data that were really hot off the press, she also got the chance to talk to PhD students and postdocs in the lab of Momo Bentires-Alj. A busy program, but a day that was very well spent!

5 July, 2018

On display in de Volkskrant

Photographer Jos Jansen got much deserved attention in today’s Volkskrant (a national Dutch newspaper), which prominently featured his work, vision and ideas (you will find a link to the piece here).
We were happy to see our science featured as well. It is good to be reminded by others every now and then that Amsterdam Science Park is such an amazing playground. In September and October his work will also be on display at the international photography festival BredaPhoto. This year’s edition "To Infinity And Beyond" explores the impact of science on society.

4 July, 2018

Artist collaboration

Earlier this year, photographer Jos Jansen visited the lab in search of a piece of science that could be featured in his new art project. The result, a wonderful book called "Universe", is now available.

image compiled from screenshots taken at

Using images and text, Jos Jansen has managed to capture scientific exploration in all its alienating and intriguing beauty. The result offers an exciting glimpse into the world of physics, chemistry and biology. Our hard work in progress is featured in the section "Organisms".
So go ahead and buy yourself a coffee table, because this book deserves to be on it!

3 July, 2018

Developmental advocacy

Together with Roel Nusse, Katrin and Renee wrote a perspective on the role that curiosity driven, basic developmental biology research has played in unravelling the role of Wnt signaling. It came out in Development today as the first piece in a series that will be advocating developmental biology.

When we were invited to write this Primer, we were asked to do so with a single question in mind: "What has developmental biology ever done for us?" We were also asked to write a piece that would be accessible for undergraduates. For this reason, we decided to provide a historical perspective on how the Wnt signaling field took shape and to highlight, among others, developmental genetics in Drosophila and the concept of genetic epistasis analyses. We also draw parallels between observations made in flies and mice, to illustrate how research in very different fields ultimately gave rise to our current understanding of the Wnt pathway.
As we state in our Primer, we hope that after this first skinny dip, our young (and old!) readers will be keen to dive deeply into the wealth of beautiful Wnt literature and other model organisms that are out there. You can access our piece here.

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24 June, 2018

2018 GRC on Mammary Gland Biology (2)

And here, as final proof that it all really happened and went well, is the GRC 2018 group photo with everybody who was awake and on time to make it to the 8:30 am photo opportunity.

9 June, 2018

2018 GRC on Mammary Gland Biology

Together with Christina Scheel (Munich, Germany), Renee organised and chaired the 2018 Gordon Research Conference on Mammary Gland Biology. A total of 155 scientists, including Katrin (who presented a poster on her work) gathered in beautiful Il Ciocco (Tuscany, Italy) to immerse themselves in all aspects of mammary gland development and function, ranging from branching morphogenesis to breast cancer heterogeneity and from in silico models to clinical trials with the latest targeted therapies.

The tone for an interactive meeting was set at the the GRS (organised and chaired by Johanna Wagner from Zurich, Switzerland), where PhD students and postdocs from the field gathered without their PIs to present their work. Together with Kara Britt (Melbourne, Australia) Christina and Renee had the honour of attending as guests and to take part in a mentoring workshop (chaired with great enthusiasm by Russ Hovey). We were blown away with the quality of the discussion during the GRS and luckily the junior scientists kept it up during the GRC by actively participating in the plenary discussion that followed each talk.

We are happy that so many of you enjoyed some of the newer and outside additions to the program, including the Power Hour (hosted by Maria Vivanco, which many felt should become a fixed part of the GRC program that focuses more on implicit bias and challenges in science than those faced by women per se), the one-minute poster flash talks and the off-program pathology workshop hosted by Tan Ince. We will be sure to communicate all of our findings and your feedback to GRC headquarters. Please note, that as a service to the community, the slides from Tan Ince’s pathology workshop can be downloaded from the ENBDC website.

It is exciting to see how much knowledge we have already gathered about mammary gland biology using creative and multidisciplinary apporaches. At the same time, it is sobering to realize how many fundamental questions about mammary gland morphogenesis, breast cancer and lactation biology still remain to be answered. There seems to be plenty of work left for a new generation of scientists. It is more important than ever that we advocate for sufficient funding for basic research and for sufficient career opportunities for the next generation of bright and inquisitive minds, many of whom expressed doubts about whether or not there would be a place for them in academia.

Renee now returns to the lab feeling both exhausted and satisfied. Thanks once again to Johanna Wagner for running a great GRS, and to our speakers, discussion leaders, poster presenters, microphone assistants, GRC site staff, sponsors and all attendees. It was both an honour and a great pleasure to chair this meeting. The only thing left to do now is wrap up our finances, write some reports to inform our sponsors and to leave behind an "How To..." information package for the future chairs.
Speaking of the future: The upcoming 2019 GRC will be chaired by Weston Porter and Kaylee Schwertfeger and will take place in the US. The chairs for the 2020 GRC were elected at the GRC last week, with the organization ending up in the capable hands of Maria Vivanco (Bilbao, Spain) and Beatrice Howard (London, UK). Good luck guys, it is a lot of work but well worth it!

2 June, 2018

Keeping up with the Planarians

You never would have guessed, but it turns out to be easier to regenerate a Planarian worm after cutting it into 8 pieces (yes, each of these pieces will grow a new head/tail/bodyplan) than it is to feed them (below, left).

After confirming the literature (which reports that they do not like tap or demi water - check) and establishing that they seem most happy in store bought mineral water (Spa Blauw) or diluted instant ocean sea salt (thanks to the aptly named Jan Wormmeester from the Education Service Centre for buying Renee a bag), Renee decided to stick to the latter.
The planarians seem to survive fine without feeding for quite a while, but they get increasingly smaller. Unfortunately, feeding them some hard boiled egg yolk is easier said than done. The first time (above, middle) they just circled it and avoided it like the plague. Granted, the egg may have been a bit runny and/or not the freshest... The second time (above, right) at least some of them appeared to feed, but the colony failed to thrive after.
Hopefully we were not shipped a batch of picky eaters, because the possibility of feeding them egg sure beats the alternative (mincing up some gourmet beef liver or meal worms)... If the worms survive Renee’s absence due to the upcoming GRC, the next attempt will probably involve grinding the egg yolk up into much smaller pieces and providing them with substantially less food at meal time.

15 May, 2018

Wntlab 2017 - 2018

We waited for a sunny spring day to snap a picture of the Wntlab.

From left to right: Marius, Roan, Yorick, Larissa, Anoeska, Katja, Nika, Renee, Saskia, Sanne, Katrin, Isabel and Amber.

25 April, 2018


We got some new critters in the lab as Renee is setting up a new Advanced Genomics practical together with Rob Dekker and Martijs Jonker. A jar of Planarians arrived on the 19th of April, which means it is time for some experimentation. The first challenge will be to determine which water they like, then to try and feed them some hard boiled egg yolk and, of course, to see whether they can regenerate in our hands.

Setting up experiments with a new species is no easy feat, but luckily there are some amazing resources out there to get us started. Dr. Alejandro Sanchez Alvarado (Stowers Institute, USA) has compiled a terrific educational resource ( and whenever Renee gets stuck, there is always Twitter!

20 April, 2018

Congratulations Anoeska

We can’t believe it has been four years already, but Anoeska has started writing up the results of her PhD thesis research. She will still be working in the lab part time, but will also slowly transfer into her new job as assistant manager at SILS.
Congratulations on this exciting new step. Make us proud!

1 April, 2018

10th ENBDC workshop in Weggis

Renee attended the annual methods workshop of the European Network for Breast Development and Cancer labs. Eva Gonzalez Suarez (IDIBELL, Spain) organised and chaired a superb 10-year anniversary meeting, which included oral and poster presentations by junior and established scientists. Renee found the talk by Charles Streuli on the interaction between the circadian clock and different cell types in the mammary gland particularly intriguing.

Unfortunately, Renee had to miss out on climbing mount Rigi. Instead, she spent a productive afternoon with Christina Scheel selecting abstracts for short talks for the upcoming 2018 GRC on mammary gland biology.

16 March, 2018

Welcome Marius and Roan

Marius and Roan have started their 5-month BSc internships under the direct supervision of Katrin and Yorick. With their arrival we are now at full capacity. The lab is bursting at the seams - so here’s to good times, lots of exciting data and a healthy dose of troubleshooting!

5 February, 2018

Welcome Larissa

On the 16th of January Larissa officially joined the lab as a new postdoc. She will be working on the recently awarded KWF project to resolve the role of Wnt signaling in breast cancer.
As a result of the many new people that have joined the lab (and the two additional students we are still expecting) our weekly Wntlab meeting has become too big for our standard meeting room, which means that we are now gathering in one of the lecture rooms in the faculty of science instead.

17 January, 2018

Welcome Isabel, Katja and Sanne

Three new MSc students have started their internships in the lab. Isabel joined Amber on the organoid project, Katja will be working with Nika on the VIDI project and Sanne will work together with Saskia on the functional imaging of Wnt signaling. Welcome to all!

15 January, 2018

Happy Holidays

From our lab to yours, a very merry Christmas and all the best for 2018.

May all of your experiments yield interesting results. May all of your troubleshooting and persistence be rewarded with pre-prints/theses/publications. May all your wishes be granted and your grants as well. May scientists speak to politicians and society and may society and politicians listen. May all your paperwork exist of reading papers at work. May you write the review you would want to receive.

24 December, 2017

GRC 2018 organisation update

A quick update with respect to the upcoming GRC for mammary gland biology, which Renee is organising together with Christina Scheel (Germany):

- Applications are now welcome via the GRC conference website. We expect to start selecting/accepting people from late January/early February onwards. Keep in mind that the maximum amount of attendees for this meeting is capped at 200.
- The preliminary program is finished: all but one of our speakers are confirmed, as are all discussion leaders/session chairs. We are still working on some aspects of the program, such as the Power Hour. For the first time, poster presenters will have the option of presenting their poster in a one minute flash talk on Monday right before lunch. The number of spots is limited to 30.

Fundraising for the conference is well underway, but about as difficult as all money-raising efforts these days. We are contacting various organisations, charities and companies/industry to reach our fundraising goal. In this respect, we are most happy to announce that the Amsterdams Universiteitsfonds will be supporting our conference with 10,000 euros. A huge thank you for this vital contribution to the mammary gland community and the fields of lactation biology and breast cancer research.

19 December, 2017

Permanent position for Amber

Most of the lab made it to dinner in De Polder to celebrate that Amber got a permanent position. This mean she can stay on as a technician in the group indefinitely: a very good reason to be happy and excited!

15 December, 2017

National Finalist

Nicolaas, who did his BSc internship in our group under the supervision of Nika, was a national finalist in the annual competition for best biology thesis. This competition is organised once a year by the LOBS (Landelijk Overleg Biology Studenten), the organisation of Dutch biology students.
On 8 December Nicolaas got the opportunity to present his research in front of a jury in a fifteen minute talk at the LCBS (Landelijk Congres Biologie Studenten). While he didn’t bring home the Darwin award, we could not be more proud that one of our students made it this far in the competition!

9 December, 2017

Symposium at the Georg Speyer Haus in Frankfurt

Renée gave a talk at the two-day symposium "Dynamics of adult stem cells and cancer" in Frankfurt, Germany. The event was organised by Henner Farin, a junior group leader at the Georg Speyer Haus (an institute for tumor biology and experimental therapy with an entire room dedicated to its first director Paul Ehrlich, one of the founders of modern chemotherapy) and featured talks on a wide variety of topics and cancers, ranging from the hematopoietic system to the liver and from novel bioinformatics approaches to the latest in organoid culture technology and targeted therapy to explore cancer vulnerabilities.
It was great to talk to all the other speakers in the line up, which included some familiar and plenty of new faces, but also to get the chance to interact with junior scientists during the lunch and coffee breaks.

26 October, 2017

Grassroots project awarded

Earlier this week, Renee and Nika introduced our personally designed stem cell board game to 3rd year BSc students in the Frontiers in Medical Biology course. Today, we heard that we can develop this game further thanks to the award of a Grassroots proposal from the University of Amsterdam that Renee wrote together with SILS colleague Gooitzen Zwanenburg.

The idea of the Grassroots initiative is to develop novel online learning approaches. Gooitzen and Renee will use the award to develop an online version of the stem cell game, with the goal of finding an intuitive, playful way of bridging the gap between the complex and dynamic biology and the mathematical models that quantitatively describe it.

6 October, 2017

Welcome Jasmijn

Today Jasmijn started her BSc internship in the group. Under the supervision of Saskia, she will work on functional imaging of Wnt signal transduction.

4 September, 2017

What’s Next?

The University of Amsterdam turns 385 years old this year. It is still very much alive and kicking however, which is why yesterday we asked: "What’s Next"?

The beautiful Tuschinski theater (normally one of the city’s prettiest cinemas) turned into a talkshow studio for the occasion, as Robbert Dijkgraaf interviewed a bunch of scientists about the endless opportunities (as well as potential ethical issues and difficult decisions) that face us in the near future. Renée took part in the short segment dedicated to "Humanity", where she got to briefly highlight the promises and perils of the CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing technology alongside interesting discussions about machine learning and questions such as: "Who is responsible when a self-driving car gets into an accident?"

Other segments addressed the challenges we face when it comes to preserving our planet and allocating its resources, and the afternoon ended with a more philosophical discussion about what awaits us in the universe, both in terms of potential life forms and in practical issues regarding space law and asteroid resource ownership. There was music, fashion and stand-up comedy as well to make for an interesting afternoon of all that the University has to offer and think about, after which the entire audience went home with a piece of "Soop", courtesy of Peel Pioneers.
Once the official program was finished, a bunch of young curious minds under 18 got the opportunity to mix and mingle with the scientists backstage and it was good to talk to at least some of them.
By the way, if you take a good look at the promotion material that will be used throughout the year, you can also see quite some familiar faces in the dynamic "385" logo. Our students turn out to be quite photogenic.

Click here to read more about the event

3 September, 2017

Meeting report ENBDC online

The meeting report of the 9th ENBDC Weggis workshop on mammary gland biology and breast cancer has been published in Breast Cancer Research. It is co-authored by Katrin, who chaired this year’s PhD and postdoc session together with Romain Amante from the Bentires-Alj lab in Basel.

28 August, 2017

KWF grant awarded

We are excited that Renée was awarded a grant from the Dutch Cancer Society (KWF Kankerbestrijding). This allows us to continue our studies on the role of aberrant Wnt signaling in breast cancer. For this project, we will collaborate with the groups of Hans Clevers (Utrecht), Jos Jonkers (Amsterdam) and Christina Scheel (Germany).

What are we going to study?
Wnt signaling, the main topic of study in our lab, is frequently hyper-activated in different tumors, most notably in colorectal cancer. In other tumor types, including breast cancer, the involvement of the Wnt pathway is less well understood. In recent years it has become clear that Wnt signaling is probably deregulated via subtle alterations, that for a long time simply proved more difficult to detect than those in, say, colorectal cancer.
Pharmaceutical companies have been trying to develop multiple Wnt signaling inhibitors and some of these have entered clinical trials. The hope is that they will also be beneficial for breast cancer patients. But breast cancer is a complex disease, with many different subtypes that may very well respond differently to changes in Wnt signaling or a Wnt pathway inhibitor. To date, this has never been properly tested.
In this project, we aim to answer the important basic research question of how the Wnt pathway collaborates with other genetic mutations in tumor progression. We will also try to determine whether all or only a subset of breast cancer subtypes respond to Wnt-pathway inhibition: knowledge that has to be gained if in the future we want to predict which individual patient might benefit from a therapy aimed at targeting the Wnt pathway.

Wat gaan we onderzoeken?
Wnt signalering, de belangrijkste focus van ons onderzoek, is vaak gehyperactiveerd in tumoren. Het meest bekende voorbeeld is darmkanker. In andere typen tumoren, waaronder borstkanker, begrijpen we de rol van de Wnt pathway veel minder goed. In de afgelopen jaren is wel duidelijk geworden dat de Wnt pathway in borstkanker hoogstwaarschijnlijk subtiele veranderingen heeft ondergaan, die voor een lange tijd simpelweg veel moeilijker te detecteren waren dan de mutaties die gevonden worden in bijvoorbeeld darmkanker.
De farmaceutische industrie probeert al heel lang om verschillende Wnt-pathway remmers te ontwikkelen en sommige van deze medicijnen worden nu getest in clinical trials. Iedereen hoopt dat ze ook bij de behandeling van borstkanker kunnen worden ingezet. Maar borstkanker is een complexe ziekte met veel verschillende subtypes - en het zou goed kunnen dat die verschillen in hun gevoeligheid voor Wnt signalering en dus voor een Wnt-pathway remmer. Tot nog toe is dat nog nooit goed onderzocht.
In dit project, willen we een belangrijke fundamentele onderzoeksvraag beantwoorden: Hoe werkt de Wnt pathway samen met andere genetische mutaties bij het ontstaan van borstkanker? We willen ook bepalen of alle, of misschien alleen een subset van de borstkankersoorten reageert op remming van de Wnt pathway. Deze kennis is nodig als we in de toekomst in staat willen zijn om te voorspellen welke individuele patient eventueel baat zou kunnen hebben bij behandeling met een Wnt-pathway remmer.

16 August, 2017

Goodbye students

This week both Britt and Nicolaas gave a talk presenting the work they performed during their internships. With Catia, Lieve and Tanne also gearing up to finish their last experiments this meant it was time for another lab dinner to say goodbye to another great batch of students. Katrin hosted a gluten-free pizza party for the occasion, which culminated in gluten-free Oreo cheesecake and a game of cards-against-humanity.
The students presented us with an awesome Wnt-inspired and poetic etching*, which deserves (and will find) a prominent spot in our lab/office space. Thanks to all of them for their hard work, enthusiasm and fresh input - and good luck with everything that comes next!

* Yes, this is Z-DNA. Everybody knows we need more left-handedness in this world. Besides, it is only a matter of time before we unravel the functional importance of one of nature’s greatest mysteries. We are glad the students distilled this as the take-home message from their time in our lab.

7 July, 2017

Group picture 2016-2017

The official 2016-2017 @wntlab group picture is finally here. Thanks to @joachimgoedhart for managing to get a decent photograph out of this dynamic and lively bunch.

7 July, 2017

NWO talent scheme

Renée travelled to The Hague, where she sat on a VIDI/VICI laureate-and-committee-member panel with Wim van der Putten to talk about her experiences in applying for (and ultimately obtaining) the much coveted VIDI grant. The goal was to answers questions from researchers planning to submit a proposal for the upcoming round of the NWO Vernieuwingsimpuls.

To her surprise, a substantial part the discussion revolved around parental leave issues and extension clauses - important to many, no doubt, but perhaps not exactly the best use of a panel with inside information about the application process and interview sessions. Later on the Q&A also covered the importance of the rebuttal, how to present your teaching and mentoring experience in the best possible light and how to demonstrate independence (including what current and former supervisors can do to support this independence).
It was good to talk to all of these enthusiastic scientists (both during the panel and later during one on one interactions) and it remains frustrating to see so many skilled and talented researchers having to fight for the scarce available funding.

6 July, 2017

Viva la viva

Renée travelled to Cambridge, where she was the external examiner for a PhD viva and got the opportunity to meet old and new colleagues. It is really interesting to come across all the different ways in which PhD defences are organised in different countries (which means that it is also always smart to ask for explicit advise from a local as to what is expected of an opponent in that particular academic culture...)

The Dutch defence is a public ceremony, which lasts exactly 45 minutes and which is full of ancient ceremony and university ritual. The room is filled with colleagues, family and friends and each committee member has 5-10 minutes to ask questions. While not exactly just-for-show (the candidate still has to deliver and can theoretically fail), the defence takes place once the thesis has been thoroughly reviewed, printed and bound and it would be extremely rare for a candidate not to be awarded their PhD at this moment.
The British viva (or oral examination) takes place behind closed doors in a meeting room a couple of doors away from the lab with just the candidate, an internal and an external examiner (and an anxious supervisor further down the hall) and it is essentially a multi-hour grilling session about the candidate’s work. At this point, the thesis is still in the draft stage and the examiners can actually ask for minor or even major revisions that would send the candidate back to either the computer or the lab.

Renée really enjoyed the long discussion about all things Wnt. The candidate might have felt differently, but all is well that ends well: without giving away too many details it is probably safe to reveal that the day ended with cake and champagne.

27 June, 2017

poster prize for Amber

Amber won (shared) first place in the poster prize competition at the annual SILS research day. She presented her work on the role of Wnt signaling in the mammary epithelium using primary mammary organoids as a model system. Congratulations!

22 June, 2017

GRC on mammary gland biology and breast cancer

Renée attended (and chaired a session at) the 2017 GRC conference on mammary gland biology. Approximately 200 scientists gathered in the Stoweflake Conference Center in Vermont (for the aficionados: that is close to the Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream Factory). It was great to catch up with old colleagues and to meet so many new ones.

Heide Ford and Mike Lewis put together an inspiring program with a diverse set of talks on topics ranging from tumor dormancy to lactation biology, presented by a mix of early career scientists and established leaders in the field. In true GRC style old and young had plenty of opportunity to mix and mingle during the poster sessions and at meals.
Kaylee Schwertfeger and Weston Porter were elected as chairs for the 2019 GRC. Next year, Renée will organise and chair the 2018 GRC (set to be held in Il Ciocco, Italy) together with Christina Scheel. We will keep you posted on updates!

20 June, 2017

March for Science: The Event

On Saturday 22 April we joined scientists in more than 500 cities worldwide in the March for Science. Nika and Renée talked to the general public for about five hours straight to explain the principles and challenges of basic research in the life sciences. We got lots of great feedback on our poster and everybody who left their e-mail address with us should get a copy soon.

Op zaterdag 22 april namen wij samen met duizenden andere wetenschappers wereldwijd deel aan de ’March for Science’. Nika en Renée stonden in de ’Exploration’ tent op het Museumplein, waar we van 11:30 tot 16:30 non-stop uitleg mochten geven over fundamenteel onderzoek naar de bouwstenen van het leven aan een niet aflatende stroom bezoekers.
Het was fijn om vrienden en (oud)collega’s te zien, maar we zijn vooral enorm blij dat we zoveel niet-wetenschappers te woord konden staan. Het was duidelijk dat veel mensen de wetenschap een warm hart toedragen. U kwam overal vandaan (van Heemstede tot Seattle en van Chili tot Bussum) en was van alle leeftijden. Wat was u nieuwsgierig en wat stelde u een goede vragen!
We zijn uiteraard blij dat onze poster zo goed in de smaak viel. Iedereen die een e-mail adres bij ons heeft achter gelaten, zal binnenkort een kopie krijgen om op school aan de muur te hangen. Wij denken inmiddels alvast na over een vervolg, want wij komen u graag nog eens tegen.

22 April, 2017

March for science (update)

With only a week to go, the March For Science is rapidly approaching. Together with Katrin and Nika, Renée will be among the scientists that will answer questions from the general public in one of two ’teach-in’ tents (appropriately named ’Discovery’ and ’Exploration’ for the occasion).

Everybody is born with an innate curiosity - so come on over and bring your friends, kids, or (grand)parents. Check out the program, there is plenty of cool stuff to see, hear and do for everybody.

15 April, 2017

New lab practical in the making

This may look like just a bunch of M&Ms to you, but in the lab this turns out to be the beginning of a new practical exercise that Renée hopes to incorporate into the upcoming edition of Frontiers in Medical Biology (a course for 3rd year BSc students).
Curious what this is supposed to represent? Think stem cells!

13 April, 2017

March for science

Today Renée attended a brainstorm session at the Nemo Science Centre on how to mobilize people to the March For Science on 22 April 2017. It was enlightening and empowering to be in a room with so many people from different walks of life (not all were scientists, but all value science and empirical evidence).

Admittedly, Renée felt a bit like a fish out of water at times: protesting and activism is usually not the first thing scientists turn to. However, in view of current global affairs (including an increase in fact-free politics) we cannot afford to be silent. Facts matter. Science is vital. It is everywhere and affects everyone. And that is #WhyIMarch on 22 April 2017.

2 April, 2017

EMBO practical course

Last week Nika attended the EMBO practical course "Techniques for mammary gland research". It was a great opportunity to meet other early career researchers studying various aspects of mammary gland biology and to learn the ins and outs of a variety of techniques from expert instructors.

28 March, 2017

9th ENBDC Workshop

The annual ENBDC workshop on methods in mammary gland biology and breast cancer was held in Weggis from 9-11 March. Amber, Katrin, Saskia and Renée travelled to Switzerland to attend and present posters. Katrin also organised the postdoc and PhD session, focussing on proteomics, together with Romain Amante from the Bentires-Alj lab.
From microcapsules to mass cytometry and from CRISPR/Cas9 screens to single cell sequencing, the meeting covered a lot of ground. So did the attendants: on our free afternoon, we scaled mount Rigi, which was still covered in snow and which, once at the top, provided wonderful views over the Vierwaldstättersee.

Keep an eye on the ENBDC website for details about next year’s (10th anniversary!) edition.

14 March, 2017

Visit to Jena

Renée visited Jena, where she gave a talk and met with colleagues at the Leibniz Institute on Aging. It was an interesting and fun visit and it felt great to be surrounded by present day scientists in the town of Ernst Haeckel, who always pops up in her developmental biology lectures (and who drew some impressive bioart - as per this link, by the way).

15 February, 2017

New group picture

Now that all of the students for 2016-2017 have started, it is time for a new group picture. The lighting in the lecture hall was horrible, but everybody was present and therefore in the picture. A better shot will follow once spring has arrived.

9 February, 2017


After a positive mid-term evaluation, Renée was promoted to associate professor with tenure. Thanks to everybody in the team for making these past few years such a pleasure and succes!

1 February, 2017

Welcome Yorick

Yorick has joined the lab as a new PhD student. He will work on identifying the mammary stem cell niche. We are happy to add a Y to our mix!

1 February, 2017

Happy holidays

On Saturday we visited the Amsterdam Light Festival. This year’s theme? Biomimicry. From nerve cells to birds’ nests and from arachnids to rotifers - the biology inspired exhibits lit up the area around Waterlooplein.

We also added our own contribution with a bit of light painting. Practice makes perfect, so from our lab to yours: Happy holidays and a bright 2017!

(pictures by Nika Heijmans)

17 December, 2016

ENBDC news update

Renée travelled to Paris for an ENBDC committee meeting, hosted at the Curie Institute by Marina Glukhova. Here are some updates of the exciting year ahead for those interested in mammary gland biology and breast cancer:

- The annual workshop in Weggis will take place in March of this year. This is earlier than usual, which means that the registration deadline is 5 January 2017! So spread the word and do not forget to sign up if you plan on attending this small-scale, techniques oriented meeting. On a side note: it looks like the PhD and postdoc session will be here to stay. We have edited the registration form so you can indicate your interest in organising this session next year at sign up!

- Thanks to a lot of hard work by Maria Vivanco (Bilbao, Spain) and Matt Smalley (Cardiff, UK) the ENBDC is proud to announce the inaugural version of an EMBO practical course focusing on mammary gland techniques. This first edition will focus on techniques for the dissection and dissociation of different subpopulations of both mouse and human mammary cells. Also here the registration deadline is fast approaching (9 January) and space is limited.

16 December, 2016

Guest lecture at the Spinoza Lyceum

Today Anoeska gave a guest lecture at the Spinoza Lyceum in Amsterdam. She talked about CRISPR/Cas9 mediated genome editing and was excited to find so many interested high school students eager to engage in a discussion about the promises and pitfalls of this exciting technology!

13 December, 2016

Opening of the 2016 BAD award exhibit

On Friday 2 December the public was finally able to see the results of the 2016 BAD award competition. Lilian van Daal and Roos Meerman won the race against the clock. Assisted by Joppe Spaans they managed to get all their kinetic 3D printed objects moving just in time before the official opening, which took place at the MU gallery in Eindhoven.

’Elabricate’ (left) and ’Lactility’ (right). These moving 3D printed objects were inspired by human lung and breast tissue. To create them, Lilian and Roos developed novel 3D printing techniques.

Lilian, Roos and Renée were able to reflect on their collaboration in an interview session. Later in the evening, they provided a bit more background for the Dynamorphosis project, when all artists provided a guided tour through the exhibition space.

A glimpse of the ’Dynamorphosis’ exhibition space (left) and an otherworldly impression of ’Haem’ by fellow BAD award winners Cecilia Jonsson and Rodrigo Leite de Oliveira (right)

If you have the opportunity, you should definitely go to Eindhoven to visit the ’Fluid Matter’ exposition. It is open to the general public until 26 February 2017 and hosts a terrific selection of Bio Art and Design that is as thought provoking as it is aesthetically pleasing.

2 December, 2016

New students

Lieve was the first student to join our lab in the 2016-2017 academic year. She will work on the mammary organoid system under the supervision of Amber. Welcome!

1 December, 2016

The 2016 Weggis ENBDC meeting report

The meeting report of the 2016 ENBDC meeting in Weggis was published in Breast Cancer Research. You can read it here. Anoeska and Renée authored the piece together with Bethan Lloyd-Lewis, Mohammed Bentires-Alj and Robert Clarke. We’re happy it’s out, because the 2017 meeting is already just around the corner!

29 November, 2016

Congrats to our fellow MC’ers

Congratulations to our fellow MC’ers (in particular Daphne, Lindsay and Laura with whom we share the wet lab, and of course our very own Katrin, who is a co-author on the paper) with the publication of their mScarlet story. Read the UvA press release about this bright red fluorescent protein here. Do you have an above average interest in fluorescent proteins? Of course you can also read the full story, which was published in Nature Methods, here.

(image by Lindsay Haarbosch)

23 November, 2016

BAD award 2016 update

Designers Roos Meerman and Lilian van Daal are working very hard to finish their project "Dynamorphosis" in time for the opening exhibit at the MU gallery in Eindhoven on 2 December 2016. So keep your eyes on the BAD award website for updates and behind the scenes information.
A first glimpse of all the beauty that awaits visitors can be seen in the sneak preview to the left. (photo by Lilian van Daal and Roos Meerman)

18 November, 2016

New issue of Amsterdam Science

The latest issue of Amsterdam Science is out. Pick it up if you are near, or download the PDF version of the magazine here. Issue 4 also contains a piece on the recently published Petrinet paper (a collaboration with colleagues from the VU) by Nika and Annika Jacobsen.

3 November, 2016

Docent Uitgelicht

Renée was interviewed for the faculty’s online series "Docent Uitgelicht".
You can read the piece here (in Dutch) or here (in English).
(photos were made by Liesbeth Dingemans)

1 November, 2016

New protocol chapter is out

Officially, the publication date is still in the future, but our protocol chapter on lineage tracing of mammary gland and progenitor cells is out. Anoeska and Renée wrote the chapter in collaboration with the group of Jane Visvader (Australia). As a result, the chapter covers both tamoxifen-inducible CreERT2/loxP as well as doxycycline-inducible rtTA/tetO-Cre/loxP tracing systems.
The chapter is one of a collection of experimental protocols on Mammary Gland Development, published as part of the Springer Protocol series. The volume was edited by Finian Martin, Torsten Stein and Jillian Howlin.

1 November, 2016

New publication in Scientific Reports

Our paper on the identification and validation of novel reference genes for qRT-PCR studies of the mouse mammary gland is out! In this (open access) paper published in Scientific Reports, Anoeska and Renée used published microarray datasets to find genes that are stably expressed in different stages of mammary gland development. Our hypothesis was that some of these genes could function as reliable, tissue-specific reference genes for qRT-PCR studies and we validated this experimentally.
Click here to read what we found out!

Voor de geïnteresseerde leek: Alle weefsels en organen in ons lichaam zijn ontzettend dynamisch. Er worden voortdurend nieuwe cellen geboren. Daar staat tegenover dat zieke of verouderde cellen worden opgeruimd. Sommige weefsels veranderen ook onder invloed van hormonen - ze gaan dan harder groeien, of maken andere cellen en eiwitten aan. Dit is bijvoorbeeld het geval in de borstklier tijdens de puberteit en tijdens de zwangerschap. Uiteindelijk zijn het de genen in ons DNA die ervoor zorgen dat een weefsel zoveel dynamische eigenschappen heeft. Wetenschappers willen graag weten welke genen voor deze veranderingen zorgen, omdat veranderingen in diezelfde genen een rol kunnen spelen bij het ontstaan van kanker. Maar wie wil bestuderen welke genen hun activiteit veranderen, moet hiervoor als controle een paar genen kunnen gebruiken waarvan de activiteit niet verandert. Dit zijn zogenaamde referentiegenen. In dit onderzoek hebben wij met behulp van bioinformatische analyses in grote, complexe datasets gezocht naar genen die zo’n stabiel expressiepatroon hebben. Op die manier hebben we drie genen ontdekt (Phf7, Prdx1 en Ctbp1) die zich tijdens de ontwikkeling van de borstklier veel stabieler gedragen dan de tot nu toe gebruikte referentiegenen. We kunnen nu veel preciezer detecteren welke genen er in het borstweefsel wel veranderingen in activiteit vertonen. Bovendien is deze zelfde aanpak in principe ook toe te passen op andere weefsels, want daar zullen weer andere genen zich stabieler gedragen.

18 October, 2016

Up on the roof

On Friday evening we visited our colleagues of the astronomy department at the Anton Pannekoek Institute for a tour of the observatories. These structures are two characteristic features on the roof of the Science Faculty and serve as handy pointers to direct visitors to the right building.
A visit to the telescopes that are normally hidden from view had been on our wishlist for a long time.

There was no actual stargazing involved (a bit too early and a bit too cloudy for that), but it was really nice to get a glimpse of what is going on behind the scenes in a different discipline. And to realize that while we may not have a super cool revolving chamber, at least we can always lock ourselves up in the dark to stare down our microscopes!

7 October, 2016


Champagne to celebrate the acceptance of our paper. May this be the first of many corks to pop!

4 October, 2016

Paper accepted in Scientific Reports

Our paper "Identification of reliable reference genes for qRT-PCR studies of the developing mouse mammary gland" by Anoeska and Renée was accepted for publication in Scientific Reports!

3 October, 2016

Omroep Max Wekker Wakker

This morning, Renée was interviewed by "Wekker Wakker", the wake-up show of Omroep Max on Radio 5.
With only a few days to go before the announcements of the 2016 Nobel prizes, there‘s a lot of CRISPR buzz and with Jennifer Doudna receiving the Heinekenprijs and a nice interview about her work in yesterday‘s Volkskrant, Omroep Max had also noted that she is a prime contender for receiving the award.
You can listen to the episode here (the science bit is around 9:15, so towards the end of the morning show).

30 September, 2016

Opening ceremony of the new O|2 lab building

Today the new O|2 building at the ‘Zuidas’, which will be our home in the near future once our labs are finished, was officially opened. As part of the festivities, Renee gave a TedxO|2 talk, where she shared 5 interesting facts about the mammary gland. Because concurrent asynchronous lactation is a remarkable feat of nature!

29 September, 2016

Labouting 2016

We had our annual lab day out in our very own Vondelpark, for an afternoon of competitive games. A perfect backdrop for a new lab picture with Team Wnt.

28 September, 2016


Renée gave a talk at the Cell Press LabLink day about our work using primary mammary organoids. The LabLink day was held at the Trippenhuis in Amsterdam. Researchers from throughout the Netherlands (as well as guest speakers from abroad) gathered to talk about "The organoid revolution: Organs in a dish".
It made for an exciting day with talks focusing not only on the establishment of organoids from multiple tissues using a diverse range of approaches (gut, liver, salivary and mammary gland, brain), but also their application in both basic and translational research. Although it became clear that there are quite some hurdles to overcome when moving things from bench to bedside, there are also exciting developments (as demonstrated in the talks of Rob Coppes and Jeff Beekman, for instance).

27 September, 2016

Perspective in Developmental Cell

Together with Kyle Loh and Roel Nusse from Stanford University, Renée wrote a perspective on the role of the Wnt pathway in the evolution of multicellular animals. It is out now in Developmental Cell and you can access it here.

The gist of the story for non specialists:
Multicellular animals are complex organisms. They are more than just a clump of cells - each cell has a specialised function but also needs to work together with its neighbours. The Wnt pathway plays a special role in coordinating these processes. It can not only tell a specific cell which role to carry out, but it can also control the orientation or migration of a cell. And in complex tissues, it often does these two things at the same time! The fact that one signaling pathway combines these two important functions is probably one of the reasons why it is indispensable for the development of all multicellular animal species known to date. Basically, without Wnt signaling we would not be able to tell front from back and top from bottom!

26 September, 2016

Wnt meeting 2016

Anoeska and Renée attended the Wnt meeting, which was held in Brno, hometown of Mendel, in the Czech Republic. The Mendelian ratio of this meeting was quite low: the program was super full and we only had the opportunity to swiftly pass by the walls of the convent behind which Mendel counted his peas.

The meeting itself, however, was a great success. Lots of exciting and frequently unpublished data - and enthusiastic participants willing to share details and insights. It was great to see how novel experimental approaches are slowly revealing the secrets that our favourite signaling pathway still holds. As for our own contribution: Anoeska gave a talk and presented a poster on our functional imaging studies.

20 September, 2016

Developmental Biology by Gilbert and Barresi

Renée was excited to find out that two of her review papers are cited in the brand new, 11th edition of Developmental Biology - the textbook that she is also using in her Frontiers in Medical Biology class. While the 10th edition (from 2014) did not feel outdated, the 11th edition (from 2016) really covers the state of the art in experimental biology, including more extensive coverage of Cre/lox and CRISPR/Cas9 technology. And since most of the students accidentally purchased the latest edition, it is probably time to switch over.

If you want to read the real papers instead of the textbook: you can find Green et al. (2014) here and van Amerongen and Nusse (2009) here.

20 September, 2016

Welcome Saskia

Saskia has joined the lab as a new PhD student. She will study the Wnt pathway using functional imaging.

15 September, 2016

Special Issue on Wnt signaling and Cancer

We are happy to announce that the Special Issue for Cancers on Wnt signaling and cancer, which Renée edited together with Walter Birchmeier, is now available online. Bar a few submissions that are in the final stages of editing and processing, the issue is now complete. Thanks to all of those who contributed!

29 August, 2016

Publication in Cell Reports

Amber and Renée are co-authors on a paper that is now available online at Cell Reports. The study, entitled "PTEN Loss in E-Cadherin-Deficient Mouse Mammary Epithelial Cells Rescues Apoptosis and Results in Development of Classical Invasive Lobular Carcinoma" describes how the combined loss of E-cadherin and PTEN in mouse mammary epithelial cells induces mouse mammary tumors that closely resemble classical invasive lobular carcinoma.
This collaboration was headed by the group of Jos Jonkers at the Netherlands Cancer Institute. Amber and Renée contributed to the experiments that were performed using primary mammary organoid cultures. Because these structures allow relatively easy experimental manipulation and visualisation, they are well suitable for studying the early effects of tumor suppressor gene loss on mammary epithelial cell behaviour. Normally, these events occur inside the body, where they are hidden from view.

29 August, 2016

A present from our students

Our students left us a lovely gift that we have already put to good use: real wine glasses (in lieu of paper cups), engraved with some of our own quotes (totally taken out of context, of course).

29 August, 2016

Gordon Research Conference

Renée attended the Gordon Research Conference on Mammary Gland Biology in Italy, where she gave a talk about ongoing (and mainly unpublished) work of the lab. It was a wonderful meeting, with a full and interesting program (so it did not really matter that the weather in Tuscany was a bit confused and offered mostly rain).
We are also happy to announce that Renée was elected to organise and chair the 2018 edition together with Christina Scheel. Before that, the community will meet in the US in the summer of 2017.

If you want to stay in touch with the mammary gland biology and breast cancer community, consider following @enbdc on Twitter or become a friend of the Society for Mammary Gland Biology on Facebook.

3 June, 2016

New @wntlab picture

Renée is giving a talk at the 2016 Gordon Research Conference on Mammary Gland Biology. Time for a new @wntlab picture with all of the current students!

31 May, 2016

Looking for a postdoctoral fellow

We are looking for a postdoctoral fellow with either a background in bioinformatics or the right wet lab skills. Two years of funding is available. Check out the vacancy here. The official application process has opened via the University of Amsterdam website.

30 May, 2016

Petri net paper published

Our collaboration with Annika Jacobsen and other colleagues at the VU has resulted in a paper describing the first Petri net to model Wnt signaling. Previously available as a pre-print on bioRxiv, the study has now been published in Plos One.
Nika is second author on the paper, Renée shares senior authorship with Anton Feenstra and Jaap Heringa.

25 May, 2016

Winner BAD award 2016

Katrin and Renée travelled to The Hague for the BAD award competition. Together with artists/designers Lilian and Roos they were interviewed by a stern-looking jury. Lilian and Roos did a great job pitching their proposal "Dynamorphosis - The beauty of inner mechanisms" and together we managed to defend the proposal quite well.
The three winners of the 2016 BAD awards were announced the same afternoon, after all of the finalists again pitched their proposal in a public ceremony... and we are beyond excited that Lilian and Roos won 25.000 euros to bring the project to fruition! We are super happy that the jury also recognised the beauty and promise of their work and we are very much looking forward to collaborating in the next few months.

20 May, 2016

8th annual ENBDC workshop

Renée was the organizer and chair of the 8th annual ENBDC methods workshop on mammary gland development and breast cancer, which took place in Weggis from 12-14 May. Anoeska chaired the PhD and postdoc session (together with Bethan Lloyd-Lewis from Cambridge) and Amber, Anoeska, Katrin and Nika did a great job presenting their posters. Thanks also to the travel fellowship from the GNGH ("Genootschap ter bevordering van Natuur-, Genees- en Heelkunde") that was awarded to Anoeska earlier this year.

We can look back on a successful, interactive and inspiring meeting - even if the weather was not really cooperating - and we hope to be back in Weggis next year. The 9th edition of the Weggis workshop (9-11 March 2017), will be chaired by Richard Iggo (Bordeaux), with Katrin chairing the PhD and postdoc session (together with Romain Amante from Basel).

16 May, 2016

Fame Lab update

Earlier this year, Renée chaired the jury of the local Amsterdam heat of the Fame Lab competition. Last week, Ben Vercnocke, one of "our" two national finalists, managed to win the Dutch Fame Lab competition. He will now move on to the international finals.

27 April, 2016

Column in Amsterdam Science

Read Renée’s column "Flexibility" on the "flexwet" in the third issue of the Amsterdam Science magazine.

22 April, 2016

Katrin Wiese, PhD

Katrin successfully defended her PhD thesis in Germany. The rest of the lab could not make it to Würzburg, but we were with her in spirit. We cannot wait to welcome her back as a ‘real’ postdoc (those are Katrin’s words, not ours)!

19 April, 2016

Pre-print publication on bioRxiv

We are happy to announce that our very first pre-print publication is now up on bioRxiv . This study, which is a collaboration with colleagues at the VU, describes the construction and experimental validation of a Petrinet model for Wnt signaling.

24 March, 2016

BAD award 2016: We have a match!

Two weeks ago, Katrin and Renée went to The Hague for the BAD award match-making event. We met a lot of artists who inspired and dazzled us with their unique questions and creative approaches, but we were especially happy to be matched with Lilian van Daal and Roos Meerman.
On Thursday afternoon Lilian and Roos visited the lab to exchange ideas. It was great to have them over and to share our passion for the dynamic processes that underlie tissue development and maintenance. We are very much looking forward to collaborating with these amazing designers.

24 March, 2016

Regional heat of the Famelab competition

Renée chaired the jury of the regional heat of the Famelab competition. Together with science communication expert Marieke Hohnen and last year’s finalist Encarna Mico Amigo, she had the difficult task of deciding which two contestants would move on to the national finals. All of this took place during an entertaining, informative and fun afternoon at Spui 25.
Twenty-one scientists delivered their three-minute pitch, combining a solid scientific message with storytelling skills and, in some cases, the inventive use of props (all in line with the international Famelab rulebook, which states that you can use "whatever you can carry on stage" as a prop). It was not easy to pick the top two (really!), but after careful deliberation Jurn Heinen and Bert Verknocke were announced as winners. All the best to them in the remainder of the competition!

26 February, 2016

Piece in de Volkskrant about CRISPR/Cas9

Earlier this year we were approached by Volkskrant reporter Maarten Keulemans, who was exploring the widespread use of CRISPR/Cas9 genome editing technology throughout the Netherlands. The piece, featuring Anoeska and Renée, is published in today’s Saturday newspaper. Read it here via Blendle.

13 February, 2016

Welcome students lab dinner

Last week Tanne started her BSc internship in the group. With Francesca, Jelte and Lotte well on their way, it was time for an official "welcome students" lab getogether.
Katrin again hosted dinner at her place, featuring a mix of gimlets, Nika’s pumpkin soup, signature freestyle salads and wraps. Thanks to Francesca, dessert featured a genuine Italian tiramisu.

10 February, 2016

BAD award special in Eindhoven

Renée was invited by Isaac Monté to join in a science panel at the MU art gallery in Eindhoven as part of a two-day BAD award special event. Isaac also launched the book detailing the making of his awesome exhibit "The Art of Deception".
The afternoon and evening were filled with an interesting line up of bioartists, and we had lively discussions about everything ranging from xenotransplantation to pheromones.

23 January, 2016

Marie Curie Fellowship awarded to Katrin

We were super excited to hear that Katrin’s proposal for a Marie Curie Individual Fellowship has been awarded funding by the EU. This means there are many more exciting Wnt discoveries to come! To celebrate, we all had lunch at De Polder.

22 January, 2016

Registration for the 2016 ENBDC Methods workshop is open

The program for the upcoming ENBDC workshop in Weggis, focusing on methods in mammary gland biology and breast cancer, has been finalized. Registration and abstract submission are now also open.
We have a nice list of invited speakers. The rest of the program is up to the mammary gland and breast cancer community, so send in your abstracts via the ENBDC website. Please note that the deadline for registration and abstract submission is 7 February 2016. All other information (including payment info) can also be found on the site. The ENBDC looks forward to seeing you in Weggis!

5 January, 2016

New student

A fourth student has joined the lab for an internship. Jelte is in the UVA Biomedical Sciences program (Oncology track) and will be working in the lab for his first MSc internship under the supervision of Katrin.

4 January, 2016

KWF grant proposal funded

Just before Christmas we heard that our grant proposal, submitted for the "Unieke Kansen 2015" call of the Dutch Cancer Society, got funded by Alpe d’Huzes/KWF kankerbestrijding.

23 December, 2015

Program of the 2016 workshop on mammary gland biology

We are happy to announce the preliminary program of the upcoming ENBDC meeting, which will be held in Weggis from 12-14 May 2016. Although we are still in the process of confirming the final speakers, a draft of the meeting program can already be found here on the ENBDC website.
Abstract submission opens up in January!

18 December, 2015

New hybridisation oven

Thanks to a small-equipment grant awarded by the Nijbakker-Morra stichting we were able to buy a hybridisation oven for our RNA in situ studies. Nika has already been putting it to the test and has collected some beautiful (and interesting!) results.

18 December, 2015

Beta Break Quiz

Renée asked questions about human genome editing (CRISPR/Cas9), three parent babies (UK approved!) and regenerating reindeer antlers (yes, they have Wnts too) during the annual Beta Break Quiz, which also featured questions from the other FNWI disciplines, including physics and chemistry.

9 December, 2015

New students

Three new students have joined the lab. Tanne started volunteering in preparation for her BSc internship, which officially starts in February. Francesca and Lotte are both in the Cell Biology and Advanced Microscopy track of the UvA Biomedical Sciences program. They have joined the lab for their first MSc internship.

1 December, 2015

Bio Art and Design Award exhibition in Eindhoven

On Friday evening we went to Eindhoven to witness the official opening of the "body of matter" exhibition in the MU art galleries. Too bad it was already dark outside, because the area surrounding the old Philips Natuurkundig Laboratorium looks like an inspiring urban development area.

We got to see many of the 2015 BAD award artists again. There was a preview of the intruiging (systems biology inspired) "Human Simulation" performance by Orion Maxted, as well as the elegant "human tissue vase artefact" designed by Hongjie Yang. But we were especially pleased to finally see the hearts of Isaac Monté on display in his beautifully crafted "Art of Deception".

28 November, 2015

Presentatie Wetenschapsagenda

Good to see that some of the basic questions we concern ourselves with on a daily basis made it to the Nationale Wetenschapsagenda.

27 November, 2015

Enlighten the dark: Museumn8 @NEMO Science Center

The annual "museumnacht", during which Amsterdam’s museums open their doors way beyond midnight was held this weekend. Together with colleagues from Leiden, the VU and BioArt laboratories in Eindhoven, we lit up the dark theater at the NEMO Science Center.

The official start of the museumnacht at 7 pm included a beautiful performance by the Dutch National Ballet, spanning three floors of the Science Center. After catching a glimpse of this performance, we put on our lab coats and retreated into the dark where we entertained a steady flow of visitors until well beyond midnight.

Few were brave enough to drink the bright fluorescent beverage we served in test tubes, but many visitors created glow in the dark art or turned their own smartphone into a portable blacklight. Most importantly, we talked about fluorescent proteins, stem cells and the wonders of basic biomedical research. Visitors got to see fluorescence in action up close behind our microscope and many were impressed with the intricate beauty of the cytoskeleton and the cell nucleus that contains such an incredible amount of DNA.

They all thought we had an awesome job doing such cool research and we have to agree.

8 November, 2015

Spotify playlists

We have generated a #happyplace Spotify playlist with songs to get you through the highs (okay, and lows) of a PhD. Listen to it here.

After that, it was only fair that we generated one for those on the #tenuretrack as well.

6 November, 2015


Aanstaande zaterdag staan wij met een enthousiaste delegatie van onze vakgroep (inclusief onze hoogleraar, Dorus Gadella) in het NEMO science center tijdens de museumnacht. Kom langs en dompel je helemaal onder in het thema . Wij zijn er klaar voor en hebben onder andere alle tools die je nodig hebt om je eigen smartphone om te toveren in een portable blacklight!

5 November, 2015

Guest editing a special edition of Cancers

Together with prof.dr. Walter Birchmeier (Max Delbruck Center for Molecular Medicine, Berlin, Germany) Renée is guest editing a special edition of the open access journal Cancers. The special issue will focus on "Wnt signalling and cancer" and we are now inviting interested researchers to contribute (suggestions for) a review or primary research paper.
All manuscripts will be peer reviewed.
The deadline for submissions is 31 March 2016.

For more information, please click here to visit the journal website.

15 October, 2015

Frontiers in Medical Biology course

This year, Renée is coordinating and teaching the novel third year course "Frontiers in Medical Biology" for the first time. As part of this course, the biomedical science students had to complete two communication assignments. They wrote a blogpost, in which they had to link one of the great societal challenges of the 21st century (e.g. cancer, aging and nutrition) to the underlying, basic science. In addition, they shot web videos, in which they had to explain a basic scientific concept to a large audience.

For both of these assignments, students used the questions asked by the general public as part of the "Nationale Wetenschapsagenda" for inspiration, because as it turns out, scientists have a lot of knowledge that the general public simply is not aware of. We hope that these blogposts and web videos show that science is vital, because our UK colleagues are not the only ones in dire need of more funding for (basic) scientific research.

You can read the blogs here and visit our You Tube channel to watch the videos.

9 October, 2015

U-meet 2015: Zicht op licht

You can now read a really nice summary of our evening at SPUI 25 on the VSNU website.

(image taken from the VSNU website)

We are very happy to hear that people enjoyed the diverse evening of scientific talks. And of course we are especially pleased that the audience was intrigued by our own work and that we were able to share the story of GFP (and some restriction enzymes thrown in during the discussion) as an example of how important basic research is for scientific progress.

6 October, 2015

A fluorescent day

Today we were paid a visit by 2014 Nobel Laureate Wiliam Moerner (Stanford University) who gave a dazzling overview of his work on super resolution microscopy (or SMACM, as he prefers to call it - and so do those of us who are still frequently confused by the likes of PALM, STOM and SIM), ranging from the earliest discovery of a blinking fluorescent protein to his impressive recent work where he is bringing the whole super resolution business into the realm of 3D. That obviously excited us beyond belief.

In the evening, Renée also talked about fluorescent proteins at SPUI 25. Here, an enthusiastic and inquisitive audience was treated not only to the history of GFP with a bit of DNA cloning thrown in for good measure, but (thanks to the other speakers), also to a story on the chemistry underlying the decay of paintings and other art objects, as well as to a story on the different ways in which the media portrays dark skinned celebrities.

29 September, 2015

Announcement: Renée at SPUI25

On the 29th of September, the University of Amsterdam organizes an evening at SPUI25 with the theme "light". The evening is part of the annual U-meet series organised by the VSNU, just prior to the "Weekend van de Wetenschap" (3-4 October 2015). Renée will talk about how she uses light in her research to uncover the secrets of stem cells, but she is especially excited to share the stage with two other UvA researchers from completely different disciplines, who will talk about old paintings and American moviestars. You have never seen light from so many different angles in one evening!

28 September, 2015

Final presentation Saskia

Saskia gave her final talk, wrapping up her internship in which she combined CRISPR/Cas9 editing and functional imaging using advanced microscopy.

We already miss all of our students of the 2014/2015 academic year, but we are ready to welcome a new batch! Please check out our internship opportunities here.

25 September, 2015

Labouting 2015

While Renée was teaching the new course Frontiers in Medical Biology, the rest of the Molecular Cytology section went on an adventurous lab trip that included tree-climbing and zip-lining.

At night, we all had pizza in Hilversum, where we made the day of this ice cream vendor by entering his business with 20+ customers on the first of September to buy dessert. After that, we crashed a local PubQuiz, where team McDorus ultimately came in third place without the aid of Google.

2 September, 2015

Meeting report of the 2015 ENBDC workshop in Weggis

The meeting report of the 2015 ENBDC workshop in Weggis has been published in Breast Cancer Research. Lost your notes? Forgot to take them? Unable to attend? You can read a synopsis of the meeting, written by the meeting and session chairs, here.

1 September, 2015

Final presentation Bastiaan

Bastiaan gave his final talk, wrapping up his internship focused on using CRISPR technology to build novel Wnt reporters.

28 August, 2015

Final presentation Anika

Anika gave the final presentation on her second MSc internship. She is now ready to graduate!

19 August, 2015

Teaching for the academic year 2015-2016

This year we will contribute to the following courses:

September-October 2015: Frontiers in Medical Biology I
(Renée, 3rd year BSc Biomedische Wetenschappen, course coordinator)
Frontiers in Medical Biology I is a new course, developed to let students address three major health challenges of the 21st century (cancer, aging and food for health) from different angles, starting with a solid foundation in developmental biology.

November-December 2015: Frontiers in Medical Biology II
(Rene, 3rd year BSc Biomedische Wetenschappen, supervising research proposal writing)
Frontiers in Medical Biology II follows Frontiers in Medical Biology I.
October 2015: Biomedical Systems Biology
(Renée, 1st year MSc Biomedical Sciences)
Lecture: "the eternal life of stem cells: models for their role in health and disease

October 2015: Advanced Microscopy
(Anoeska, Nika 1st year MSc Biomedical Sciences, supervising small wet lab project)

October 2015: Clinical Cell Biology

November-December 2015: Genetica en Evolutie
(Nika, 1st year BSc Psychobiologie, supervising biology practical)

February 2016: Molecular Systems Biology
(Renée, 2nd year BSc Biomedische Wetenschappen, honours program)
Lecture: "stem cells and cancer development"

February 2016: Highlight college
(Renée, 1st year BSc Biomedische wetenschappen)
Lecture: "muismodellen in stamcel- en kankeronderzoek")

February/March/April 2016: Current Issues in Developmental Biology
(Renée, 1st and 2nd year MSc Biomedical Sciences, course coordinator)
Running for the second year, Current Issues in Developmental Biology is aimed at training students in the critical reading and presenting of the recent literature in the area of developmental biology. Students do most of the work in their own time. We meet once weekly for a supervised literature discussion (most likely in the evenings).

March 2016: Cellulaire Oncologie
(Renée, 2nd year BSc Biomedische wetenschappen, supervising study group)

17 August, 2015

Pimp 2016 with a beautiful scientific calendar

The calendar "Visions and Images of Fascination 2016", an initiative of the German "Young Academy" is now available for purchase. We contributed an image, so make this your first (albeit a slightly early) New Year’s resolution for 2016 and order it online.

28 July, 2015

Goodbye Vivienne

Today we officially said goodbye to Vivienne over drinks and dinner at the polder. As an eternal reminder, we have named our new 293T Supertopflash reporter cell line in her honor, although officially we will aways claim that 293T-WOO stands for Wnt On/Off.
It was a beautiful sunny afternoon in Amsterdam, allowing us to sit outside as we evaluated the organization of our labmeeting and journal club. Luckily, there was also time for more important things, including an epic battle between Vivienne and Bastiaan in which Vivienne’s ninja hair came out as pretty much unbreakable.
Her fellow students gave her a personalized timer. That should come in handy the next few years: Vivienne will wrap up her final report and leave for the US, where she will work as a PhD student at the University of Cincinnati.

Good luck with everything, Vivienne!

10 July, 2015

Invited talk in Manchester

Renée flew to Manchester, where she gave a talk (hosted by dr. Rob Clarke) in the Breast Cancer Now seminar series at the Cancer Research UK Manchester Institute. It was a lovely visit, and Renée enjoyed meeting everyone ranging from postdocs to the institute director. Plus we got some useful feedback on our work. All in all, a great day talking about science.

7 July, 2015

Mammary Stem Cell protocol book

The methods and protocols book "Mammary Stem Cells" (edited by María del Mar Vivanco) is out. It also contains a chapter by Renée on lineage tracing in the mammary gland using Cre/lox technology and fluorescent reporter alleles. Read it here, or contact us if you don’t have access.

4 July, 2015

NEMO Wakker Worden Kinderlezing

Renée got op early to give the Sunday morning kids lecture at the NEMO Science Museum.
Together with 23 bright and inquisitive boys and girls between the ages of 8 and 12, she investigated how sunscreen works. Along the way, she talked about UV rays, the ozon layer, melanocytes and DNA. Thanks to the help of Wolter Mooij (VUmc), everybody got a chance to take a live look through the microscope at pigmented cells in the skin. There were also hands on experiments involving tonic and a spinning color wheel.
Never a dull moment at the NEMO Wakker Worden Kinderlezing, back in the fall for another season.

28 June, 2015

Lab dinner

Anika, Bastiaan, Saskia and Vivienne will all be finishing their internships within the next two months. We kicked off the summer with dinner at Katrin’s place to say goodbye to all of them. A lovely evening, thanks first of all to the company, but helped by a shared interest in 24Kitchen and some pretty impressive cooking skills. Recipes for our Hot Pink Quinoa salad and Nika’s and Katrin’s version of Pimm’s Cup are available upon request.

26 June, 2015

Poster prize

Katrin and Nika won the poster prize at the annual SILS research day. Congratulations!
The day, organised by the PhD and postdoc council, also featured short talks by PhD students, postdocs and PIs. In addition we got to listen to some really cool talks by outside speakers from Wageningen and Oxford, who spoke on topics ranging from the stem cell niche in plants to early hemopoiesis and specification of cardiomyocytes.

25 June, 2015

Lab picture

Renée is giving a talk at the SILS research day tomorrow. Time for a new lab picture on the rooftop balcony.

24 June, 2015

Meet the neighbors

Today we visited the Zuidas (the stretch of Amsterdam surrounding the A10 freeway, which ranges from the Amstel river in the east to the Amsterdamse Bos in the west and which houses the VU campus and virtually all of the citiy’s skyscrapers with more to come). Here we met with UvA, VU and VUmc researchers (and future colleagues) to discuss the life sciences research we are going to bring to the (now still empty) O|2 building.

19 June, 2015

Nationale Wetenschapsgenda: Science for Science conference

(in Dutch, English follows below)
door Renée
Honderden wetenschappers maakten vandaag ruimte in hun overvolle agenda om samen te komen in de Fokker Terminal in Den Haag, waar de eerste conferentie plaatsvond om de Nationale Wetenschapsagenda nader vorm te geven. Beatrice de Graaf deed een appèl aan de aanwezigen om samen de toekomst van de wetenschap te bepalen en een sterk geluid te laten horen aan Den Haag. Vervolgens werden de overgebleven 250 vragen in een reeks parallelle workshops uitvoerig tegen het licht gehouden en vanuit verschillende invalshoeken bekeken (eerst binnen de disciplines en vervolgens gebiedsoverschrijdend). Ze werden daarbij beoordeeld op hun eigen merites, maar ook op een eventueel mogelijke clustering en thematische samenhang met andere vragen.
Een terugkerend thema binnen de verschillende wetenschapsgebieden was de noodzaak om het belang van de zoektocht naar fundamentele kennis en een sterke basis van de bestaande wetenschappelijke disciplines expliciet te benoemen in de uiteindelijke agenda.
Na de lunch sprak de staatssecretaris van Onderwijs, Sander Dekker, de zaal toe. Zijn optreden liet bij velen een wat bittere nasmaak na en het leek of hij de verkeerde (of een oude) speech uit de kast had gepakt. Zo deed hij een oproep aan de aanwezigen om eindelijk eens de ivoren toren te verlaten en niet alleen maar met onderzoekspublicaties in onbegrijpelijk jargon bezig te zijn (alsof de aanwezige wetenschappers nog nooit van valorisatie gehoord hadden) en sloot hij af met de opsteker dat we vooral meer moeten gaan doen met hetzelfde geld. Zo reduceerde hij de nationale wetenschapsagenda in één klap tot een simpele vraag: "How do we get more money for science?"

by Renée
Hundreds of Dutch scientists gathered in The Hague to help draft the National Science Agenda, linking societal challenges to fundamental scientific questions. What promised to be the start of a movement akin to the UK’s Science is Vital campaign, quickly lost some of its shine when the motivational speech of Sander Dekker, the state secretary for science and education, turned out to be best summarised as "you have to do better with the same amount of money". Clearly, Dutch science isn’t so much in need of better questions as it is in need of more advocates. Count me in.

16 June, 2015

Nationale Wetenschapsagenda

One of the questions Renée submitted to the Nationale Wetenschapsagenda appears to have made it to the final selection of 248 core questions. Quite literally, in fact. L32. Sweet!

9 June, 2015

Homecoming day

The annual "Universiteitsdag", during which the University of Amsterdam welcomes back its alumni, was held today. Together with Jan van Maarseveen (chemistry), Stanley Brul (biology), Paolo Grosso (computer science) and Mark Golden (physics), Renée quizzed an enthusiastic (and quite knowledgeable) audience during the BetaQuiz. The quiz was organised by FNWI’s BetaBreak students and topics ranged from stem cells to data routing and from photosynthesis to Schrödinger’s cat. The afternoon was concluded with a plenary session chaired by Rik van de Westelaken, during which the prizes for best MSc theses were handed out. After that, the evening was brought to a close with a lovely walking dinner and interesting conversations at the Maagdenhuis.

6 June, 2015

Mirror mirror...

Amber and Renée visited the Netherlands Cancer Institute to image some lineage tracing samples on a Leica TCS SP8 DLS system. As the Dutch saying goes, "alle begin is moeilijk": we have no pretty pictures to show for it (yet), but we had a valuable first encounter with the finicky details of sample preparation.

5 June, 2015

Calendar: Wakker Worden Kinderlezing

For those of you that understand Dutch, are in Amsterdam on Sunday 28 June and have (or can arrange to bring) a kid between the ages of 8 and 12: Renée will give a lecture (aimed at the younger audience segment) at the NEMO science museum as part of the "Wakker Worden" ("wake up") lecture series. The topic (very appropriately, with the summer holidays approaching) is "Hoe werkt zonnebrand?" ("how does sunscreen work"). There will be two lectures, one at 11 am and one at 1 pm. Get your tickets here.

31 May, 2015


Cake to celebrate that the O2 building has been delivered. The lab is tentatively scheduled to move to the Zuidas campus in the spring of 2016.

29 May, 2015

Lab dinner

We went out for dinner at The Seafood Bar, where Bastiaan took the lead in making sure we enjoyed a nice selection from the menu, including some oysters and a fabulous lemon pie.

22 May, 2015

BCF career event 2015

Renée took part in a panel discussion "Academia versus Industry" at the 2015 BCF career event. There were lots of questions from the audience and hopefully our answers have been of some use to all of the MSc students, PhD candidates and postdocs facing tough and/or exciting (!) career decisions.
More questions? Ask them on Twitter @wntlab!

21 May, 2015

Nationale Wetenschapsagenda

A while ago, the Dutch government launched The Dutch Science Agenda (Nationale Wetenschapsagenda). All citizens get a say in determining the agenda, which according to the official website, is ultimately meant to "deploy resources and energy in a more targeted manner with greater consideration for scientific strengths, societal challenges and economic opportunities".

One could wonder whether it is indeed the best idea to let everyone have a say in determining a country’s entire scientific agenda (looking at some of the submitted questions one might conclude that the answer to that question is "no"). One could also wonder whether the Dutch government is making such a smart move in increasingly steering scientific research in the Netherlands, thereby essentially limiting the scientific freedom that is so crucial in the basic sciences for novel and unexpected discoveries. One could even see evidence for the endangerment of basic scientific research on the government website, which states that the Science Agenda is an opportunity to "give a boost to the collaboration between scientists, industry and civil society organisations" (i.e. applied research).

In either case, as citizens and scientists we took this opportunity to also have a say by submitting questions on the Wetenschapsagenda website. So here are our 10 questions for the Dutch Science Agenda. Not coincidentally, these questions relate to our own work. Because we indeed believe that our basic scientific research is important enough to put on the national agenda. And yes, Wnt signalling is relevant for each of these questions. But of course we wouldn’t know this if it hadn’t been for basic scientific research on the development of fruit flies...

1. How does a fertilized egg develop into a complex organism with multiple specialized celltypes?

2. How do stem cells take care of maintaining our tissues and organs?

3. How are stem cell division and stem cell differentiation controlled?

4. How plastic is cell identity?

5. How does breast cancer arise and how can breast cancer exist in so many different subtypes?

6. How can the link between sex hormones and breast cancer be explained?

7. Which communication routes inside the cell form a target for cancer treatment?

8. How do cells communicate with each other?

9. How are cells able to integrate multiple signals from their surroundings into a single, clear, biological response?

10. Can we visualize biological communication events at the molecular level inside living cells?

30 April, 2015

ENBDC meeting 2015

The annual ENBDC meeting in Weggis was a succes from start to finish, beginning with a Keynote talk by Christine Watson (@MAD_Cambs) and ending with a talk (and ensuing discussion) on stem cell transplantation assays by Matt Smalley (@ECSCRI).

Our personal highlights:
- Anoeska presented a poster and gave a talk on CRISPR/Cas9 genome editing.
-The ENBDC is now on Twitter. So follow us @enbdc.
- Renée was elected as the chair for next year’s meeting (held from May 12 - May 14 in 2016).
- The 2016 meeting will also have a session chaired by PhDs and/or postdocs and the ENBDC committee is happy to announce that Bethan Lloyd-Lewis (@MAD_Cambs) and Anoeska van de Moosdijk (@wntlab) volunteered to organize and chair this session.

25 April, 2015

Dutch stem cell meeting

Part of the lab attended the annual meeting of the Dutch Society for Stem Cell Research, which was held at the University Medical Center in Utrecht.

24 April, 2015

Did you know...

... that we are on Twitter? Find and follow us @wntlab.

20 April, 2015

ENBDC meeting 2015

Anoeska’s abstract for the 2015 ENBDC meeting in Weggis was selected for a talk and a poster.

16 April, 2015

Frontiers in Medical Biology

Renée introduced the new track Frontiers in Medical Biology during the annual "voorlichting" for 2nd year BSc students. Sign up soon to join us in September-December 2015 if you are interested in taking a multidisciplinary approach to thinking about (and actively working on!) the scientific and technological challenges facing our society in the 21st century, focusing on Cancer, Aging and Nutrition.

13 April, 2015

Official launch of the Amsterdam Science Magazine

Today the first edition of the Amsterdam Science Magazine (for which Renée is an editorial board member) was presented to the dean during the 15th dies natalis celebration of the FNWI.

A first issue is always special, but this one even more so: the cover features work from the section of Molecular Cytology. It shows a developing Nematostella embryo, labeled with mTurquoise2. This work (from Marten Postma and colleagues) is also featured inside the magazine. The issue also contains a piece by Renée on the Nobel prize winning work of Jacob and Monod. In short, a must read and collector’s item! You can also read the magazine online at

26 March, 2015

Bio Art and Design Award - update

We have a match! Today "our" designer/artist, Hongjie Yang, paid a visit to the lab for a first brainstorm session. The massive pipetting session in the lab was not staged for the occasion, everybody was actually working that hard!

25 March, 2015

25 years

We all gathered in De Polder to celebrate the fact that the head of our section, Dorus Gadella, has been in academia for 25 years. Renée had to leave early to teach an evening class, but there she got to talk about somatic cell nuclear transfer and supercentenarians, which was cool too.

24 March, 2015

Scientific Calendar

Today Renée saw the proofs of a beautiful scientific calendar ("Calendar of Science 2016: Visions and Images of Fascination"), for which she contributed a picture that is tentatively brightening August 2016. The calendar is an initiative of the German "Young Academy" (die Junge Akademie).

18 March, 2015

Equipment Award

We are very happy that the Nijbakker-Morra Stichting has decided to award our small equipment request. This brings us one step closer to capturing the dynamic Wnt-signaling events in the mammary epithelium.

17 March, 2015

Bio Art and Design Award

Earlier this year, Renée was invited to take part in the Bio Art and Design Award competition for artists and designers, in which young and upcoming (bio)artists are matched with scientists to create a piece of work that "highlights and explores exciting new intersections among design, artistic practice and the life sciences".
Today, Anoeska and Renée went to ZonMW in Den Haag for the speed dating and matchmaking event. Whatever the outcome (we do hope there was a match), it was inspirational to spend an afternoon talking to artists from all over the world, both in person and over Skype.

13 March, 2015


We had lunch outside for the first time in 2015.
Do not worry, we spent the rest of the day behind the computer (giving feedback on student essays, writing abstracts, troubleshooting looping scripts), the microscope (imaging organoids) and the bench (cloning, qPCR, you name it).

12 March, 2015


Renée gave a talk ("mini college") at the "bachelorvoorlichting" (information day for high school students) on basic stem cell and cancer research.

7 March, 2015

The dress

Never a dull moment:
Today we found out that two of us actually think the dress is white-and-gold.

6 March, 2015

Interview with Renée in Het Parool

The Saturday edition of the newspaper Het Parool featured a short interview with Renée.
Read it on Blendle.

21 February, 2015

Experiment of the week

Officially we had the cupcakes to celebrate the birthday of Linda, but we secretly also enjoyed them to celebrate some exciting progress and success on the CRISPR projects.

19 February, 2015

Sushi with the group

To celebrate that we have reached a critical mass of eight people in the group, we went out for sushi.

12 February, 2015

Lab trip to Lage Vuursche

The whole section of Molecular Cytology travelled to Lage Vuursche to ring in the New Year. We enjoyed lunch (typical Dutch pancakes) and a brisk walk in the forest.

27 January, 2015

Lab selfie

Without a selfie stick (and with Katrin and Saskia missing), we managed to take a lab selfie in front of the gates of kasteel Drakenstein, where the former queen (Beatrix) has taken up residence.

27 January, 2015

New student

Anika has joined the lab for her second MSc internship. She will join Amber to work on the mammary organoid project. Welcome, Anika!

24 January, 2015

Welcome Katrin

Katrin has joined the lab as a postdoc. She will work on identifying and manipulating the mammary stem cell niche.

5 January, 2015

Wrapping up for Christmas

Just a few more days until we will break for Christmas. Nothing beats performing the last DNA isolations, genotyping PCRs and cell culture experiments with Kerstfeest with Bert en Ernie playing in the background. Including the all time classic ik ben een kerstbal. For the unlucky ones not in possession of physical copy: You can listen to the whole album here!

19 December, 2014

Invited talk

Renée gave a talk in Köln/Cologne (hosted by dr. Carien Niessen) during her visit to the CECAD (Cluster of Excellence in Cellular Stress Responses in Aging-associated Diseases).

8 December, 2014

Oral history of mammary gland biology

If you do not feel like watching Netflix during the upcoming Christmas break: The third interview, featuring Bob Cardiff, is now also up on the ENBDC website.

3 December, 2014

New students

Three new students have joined the lab for an internship. Vivienne has started her prolonged BSc internship. She will work on developing novel inducible genetic tools for Wnt pathway activation. Bastiaan and Saskia have started their MSc internships. Both of them will use CRISPR technology to develop novel ways of (functionally) imaging Wnt signal transduction.
The lab is now crowded, but very much alive and kicking!

2 December, 2014

New publication in Breast Cancer Research

Earlier this summer Renée wrote a viewpoint discussing the beautiful lineage tracing study by Rios and colleagues. This piece has now finally been published in Breast Cancer Research.

2 December, 2014

Oral history of mammary gland biology

The second ENBDC interview with key figures in the field of mammary gland biology and breast cancer research is now online. You can watch this conversation with Gil Smith here.

30 November, 2014

Oral history of mammary gland biology

In an effort to record (and preserve) an oral history of mammary gland development and breast cancer research, the ENBDC has taken the initiative of interviewing key figures in the field. The interviews will be posted on the ENBDC website and the first one, featuring Dr. Daniel Medina (talking to Dr. Mohamed Bentires-Alj) can now be viewed here.

9 November, 2014

KWF Tumor Cell Biology meeting 2014

Renée gave a talk at the 2014 KWF tumor cell biology meeting in Lunteren.

6 November, 2014

Publication in Cancer Research

Our review on phenotype switching in malignant melanoma is now available online at Cancer Research .

Fun fact: this work started out as a review for an MSc literature thesis. So students, if your thesis kicks ass this is what could happen! (Although to be honest, this does tend to be the exception rather than the rule...)

17 October, 2014

Welcome Nika

Nika has joined the lab as a PhD student. She will work on identifying and manipulating the mammary stem cell niche.

15 October, 2014

Wnt meeting 2016

At the Wnt meeting in Broome (Australia) it was also announced that the next Wnt meeting will be held in the Czech Republic in 2016. It will be organised by Vitezslav Bryja, Madelon Maurice, Gunnar Schulte, Bon-Kyoung Koo and Vladimir Korinek.

13 October, 2014

Wnt meeting 2014

Renée attended (and gave a talk at) the 2014 Wnt meeting in Broome, Australia. It took a bit of an effort to get there, but the sunsets, lunar eclipse and milky way were worth it. As was the science, with a personal favorite being a talk by Arial Yi Zeng , who has a really cool story coming out in Nature soon.

The picture on the left celebrates bipotent stem cell lineage tracing in the mammary gland (from left to right: Arial Zeng, Anne Rios (Visvader lab) and Renée).

12 October, 2014

Talk at Sanquin

Renée gave an invited seminar at Sanquin (hosted by dr. Carlijn Voermans) entitled "Wnt signaling, stem cells and cancer: tales from the mammary gland".

16 September, 2014


We had good traffic at our poster at the stagemarkt for MSc students in the Biomedical Sciences.

15 September, 2014

Cancer Research Review accepted

Our review article on phenotype switching in melanoma, a collaboration with former colleagues at the Netherlands Cancer Institute (Kristel Kemper, Pauline de Goeje and Daniel Peeper), has been accepted by Cancer Research.

3 September, 2014

Teaching for the academic year 2014/2015

This year we will contribute to the following courses:

September 2014: Molecular Biology of the Cell
(Renée, 1st year MSc Biomedical Sciences, supervising study groups)

October 2014: Biomedical Systems Biology
(Renée, 1st year MSc Biomedical Sciences, class "the eternal life of stem cells: models for their role in health and disease")

October 2014:
Advanced Microscopy (Anoeska, 1st year MSc Biomedical Sciences, supervising small wet lab project)

October 2014: Clinical Cell Biology
(Anoeska/Renée, 1st year MSc Biomedical Sciences, class and/or project)

November 2014:
Moleculaire Technieken (Anoeska, 2nd year BSc Biomedische Wetenschappen, supervising biology practical)

February 2015: Highlight college
(Renée, 1st year BSc Biomedische wetenschappen, class "muismodellen in stamcel- en kankeronderzoek")

February 2015: Honors module Molecular Systems Biology
(Renée, 2nd year BSc Biomedische wetenschappen, class "stem cells and cancer development")

February/March/April 2015: Current Issues in Developmental Biology (Renée, 1st and 2nd year MSc Biomedical Sciences, supervised literature discussions)

February 2015: Genregulatie
(Renée, 3rd year BSc Biomedische wetenschappen, class "reprogramming")

31 August, 2014

New publication in Breast Cancer Research

Amber and Renée are co-authors on this study, which was led by the group of John Stingl in Cambridge. The paper describes the influence of tamoxifen on normal mouse mammary gland homeostasis. So please go and check out Shehata et al.

25 July, 2014

Looking for a postdoc and PhD student

We are now recruiting a postdoc and a PhD student! Applications are accepted until August 8, 2014. Please note that you have to apply via the website of the University of Amsterdam, otherwise your application will not be processed properly. More information can be found here (vacancy 14-228) for the PhD candidate position and here (vacancy 14-227) for the postdoc position .

26 June, 2014

ENBDC Committee

At the 2014 ENBDC workshop on Methods in Mammary Gland Biology (held in Weggis, Switzerland from 8-10 May) Renée was elected as a member of the ENBDC committee.

17 June, 2014

Arte TV

Mark your calendars: The "Europortrait" featuring our lab will be broadcast on Arte TV on Saturday May 24, at 18:35 (French channel) or 17:05 (German channel) as part of "Arte Reportage".

21 May, 2014

Vidi grant

The verdict is finally out and we are beyond excited: Renée has been awarded a highly competitive VIDI grant (EUR 800K) by the national research council NWO! This grant will allow Renée to expand her research team to investigate the molecular mechanisms that control stem cell activity.

17 May, 2014

Europe of tomorrow

Renée was followed by a film crew from Arte TV for a couple of days. They shot a portrait of her life as a Dutch scientist for the Arte TV "Europortraits" series. Filming also took place outside of the lab, on the beautiful streets of Amsterdam.

2 May, 2014

Reactome pathway

A new version of the Reactome Pathway Database was released last month. Renée was an external reviewer for the part that deals with updates in the "TCF-dependent signaling in response to WNT" branch.

21 April, 2014

Invited talk

Renée gave a keynote lecture entitled "Tracking the developmental fate of Wnt-responsive mammary stem cells" at the 4th annual meeting of the Amsterdam Institute for Molecules, Medicines and Systems (AIMMS) at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam.

10 April, 2014

New BSc student

Tessa has joined the lab for a BSc internship (18EC).
She will design novel tools to modify Wnt-pathway activity.

7 April, 2014

Anoeska has joined the lab as a PhD student

She will work on understanding and controlling the behavior of Wnt-responsive stem cells in the mammary gland. First lab selfie in our bay!

19 March, 2014

New website online

With our new lab website going online, the year is officially off to a good start.

2 January, 2014

Happy new year!

Start the year by sticking to your resolution to read more! The first 50 people clicking on this link should be able to download a PDF reprint from a chapter on the role of Ryk and Ror receptor tyrosine kinases in Wnt signalling, which Renée wrote together with Jennifer Green and Roel Nusse. It will appear in the Cold Spring Harbor monograph Signaling by Receptor Tyrosine Kinases (edited by Joseph Schlessinger and Mark Lemmon).

1 January, 2014

Amber joined the lab as a technician

Amber joined the lab as a technician. We are now officially a team! Time to start unpacking those boxes...

15 November, 2013

Renée started her job as assistant professor at the UvA

Renée started her job as assistant professor at the Swammerdam Institute for Life Sciences at the University of Amsterdam. She was off to a good start and gave an invited talk at the annual Trippenhuismeeting of the Dutch Society for Cell Biology.

1 November, 2013

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