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Research Interests

The lab is mainly interested in the interactions of residential brain macrophages (microglia) and brain tumours. Microglia have the outstanding capability to sense injuries and infections in the brain immediately, to migrate to the site of lesion and to phagocytose detrimental material. Strikingly a comparable course of events is observed during tumour progression where microglia are attracted to the tumour and colonize the tumour. But instead of the expected anti-tumoural activity they achieve pro-tumoural functions and promote tumour growth. However due to the difficulty to monitor the early events of tumour colonization by microglia in vivo we are just beginning to understand these complex mechanisms.

 

The optically transparent zebrafish larvae allow us to study the interactions of microglia and brain tumours for the first time in vivo. In particular the opportunity to image cellular interactions at high temporal and spatial resolution in vivo combined with the possibility to interfere genetically and pharmacologically make the zebrafish an ideal model for our research.

 

Using this new brain tumour model we are approaching the following questions:

Which mechanisms are required to attract microglia to the tumour?

What are the signals that lead to the pro-tumoural activity of microglia?

Is it possible to circumvent the switch to pro-tumoural activity or even to induce anti-tumoural activity?

Biography

2012 – Principal Investigator, CNR

2009 – 2012 Postdoc, EMBL Heidelberg (Dr. Francesca Peri)

2006 – 2009 Postdoc, University of Cologne (Prof. Maria Leptin)

2002 – 2006 PhD in Genetics, University of Cologne (Prof. Diethard Tautz)

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