Department of Organismal Biology

Ewa Snaar-Jagalska

The group of Prof. Dr. Snaar-Jagalska, PI in the Institute of Biology (IBL) at Leiden University in the Netherlands, has developed automated injection and whole-animal bio-imaging quantification of zebrafish xenograft models to assess human cancer cell aggressiveness, including prostate cancer. Zebrafish embryo model is a cost-effective approach to study the mechanisms underlying the invasion and the proliferation of human cancer cells and suitable for screening of novel anti-cancer  agents as well for validation of novel genes responsible for lethal risk. Moreover this technique could be applicable to test aggressiveness of individual cancers and to perform a high-throughput screen of drugs on primary biopsy materials as well patient derived organoids. This opens the possibility to screening on a patient-by-patient basis for drug sensitivity of tumour cells under conditions that may mimic in vivo environment.


For more information about Dr Snaar-Jagalska, please refer to her group homepage 

Filippo Del Bene

A the complete understanding of neuronal circuits development and function in an intact behaving animal is a major goal of modern neuroscience. To unravel this important question our group examines neural circuit formation and activity in the visual system using zebrafish larva as model system. We focus our analysis on the cells that connect the retina to the brain, the retina ganglion cells, and on the main retinorecipient area in the zebrafish brain, the optic tectum. We are investigating the axonal trafficking in vivo in the retinotectal axons. This analysis is carried out using wild type and mutant fish lines using in vivo confocal microscopy to follow the transport of fluorescently tagged proteins. The relevance of this project extends to the understanding of several forms of neuronal degeneration diseases in humans where mutations in molecular motors have been implicated. In parallel we investigate the formation of neuronal circuits within the tectum itself and their behavioural function. We are in particular focusing on a particular class of inhibitory interneurons located in the tectum neuropil. Using a combination of functional calcium imaging, optogentics and behavioural analysis, we have discovered that their function is crucial for visual size selectivity and tectal response to small objects as well for the escape response elicited by approaching visual stimuli.

Our final goal is to expand our knowledge of neural circuit development at a cellular and molecular level, to extract general principles that can be relevant to the study and understanding human neurological disorders. 

Carsten Berndt

Redox-regulated differentiation of neural cells

Glutaredoxins are oxidoreductases of the thioredoxin family regulating the protein thiol redox state. We investigated the impact of glutaredoxin 2, a vertebrate-specific enzyme, on differentiation of neurons and oligodendrocytes using for instance qRTPCR, in situ hybridization, Western blot analyses, and immunohistochemistry. Whereas differentiation of neurons is accelerated, oligodendroglial differentiation is blocked upon increased glutaredoxin 2 levels. Here, data obtained by several in vitro (cell lines), ex vivo (primary cells, organotypic slice cultures), and in vivo (zebrafish) models are presented. These data are not only important to understand embryonic development, but also regeneration of the damaged central nervous system.