van Amerongen Lab - Developmental, Stem Cell & Cancer Biology

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


New pre-print! Celebrating the first first author submission of Marleen

More cake? Well yes indeed!

We celebrated the Biorxiv and journal submission of Marleen’s first first-author paper, called "A molecular toolbox to study progesterone receptor signaling". Also the first shared senior author publication by Thijs and Renée, by the way, in case anyone is counting.

Quite some time ago already, we had the need to measure the effects of progesterone and progesterone receptor (PR) signaling in vitro. Long story short, this turned out to be really finicky and far from straightforward.
As our scientific interest in PR signaling continued to grow, at the start of her PhD Marleen set out to optimize the experimental conditions to obtain more robust readouts. Along the way we developed some new tools (mainly new PR reporter plasmids) that we hope will be useful for the wider research community.

So head on over to Biorxiv to get the ins and outs of measuring PR signaling responses in breast (cancer) cell lines: You can read the pre-print by clicking here or by scanning the QR code below.

We are of course interested to hear your feedback.

As we await the outcome of our journal submission we will take a well deserved holiday break and as soon as we get back we will finish submitting our DNA constructs to Addgene, to ensure that all of these tools will be available to everyone.


21 July, 2023

Two highlights in one

We are really excited to announce that our position paper, which is the outcome of the 2022 ENBDC Think Tank held in Amsterdam was published today.

In this review we discuss what are - according to the ENBDC organizing committee - the biggest breakthroughs in mammary gland biology and breast cancer research of the past decade, as well as the biggest challenges that lie ahead for the next then years. The paper should be available open access via this link or directly via the Journal of Mammary Gland Biology and Neoplasia website.

We hope that this will also be especially useful to newcomers in the field, and we will probably test this hypothesis on our new Frontiers students come September.

As promised, the second highlight contained within this news snippet is that this the first paper co-authored by Thijs and Renée.

14 July, 2023


We had cake to celebrate that we finally managed to get one of our permits approved.

Sometimes the biggest hurdles in academia are of the administrative type. Barring their removal, jumping over them should be celebrated so as to forget that grants and papers could, should and would have been written in that time instead. Plus, the weather was real nice out.

6 July, 2023

lab BBQ

Thijs hosted our lab BBQ this year, where we celebrated the start of summer, the upcoming completion of the BSc and MSc internships and other highlights - including the award of a starters grant to Thijs and the decision that one of the UD positions available from the sectorplangelden was awarded to our group.
It makes up for the negative grant funding decisions that we have been plagued with so far this year and it also means that exciting times lie ahead, with the opportunity to consolidate both our research lines on early mammalian development and 3D tissue organoids.

But more on that later, first: champagne (never mind Renée’s facial expression while popping the cork).

27 June, 2023

NWO Life conference

As one of the committee members of the NWO research community "From Genes To Organisms", Renée chaired a session at the 2023 NWO Life conference.

Due to other obligations she couldn’t stay for the whole meeting (first time that happened). There was time to attend the strategy evening that preceded the conference, with presentations during dinner on FAIR data.

Joining one of the NWO research communities is highly recommended for everyone who wants to get a better understanding of how NWO operates, not to mention to help build a better and stronger life sciences communities in the Netherlands. Who knows, maybe you can even have some impact on the development of science policy.

The conference itself started with a keynote talk by Frans de Waal, before breaking up into parallel sessions. As always, the production value was top notch, making the ambience in the auditorium more like a cross between a Taylor Swift concert and a Hollywood award show, but the more people show up, the more it will also become a place to run into people you know (either IRL or "only from Twitter") or want to get to know.

23 May, 2023

DSCCB Volleyball team

Despite the fact that some of us were clearly still hiding in the office, but we did compete in the FNWI Volleyball Tournament, with Yorick also dropping by as special reinforcement.

While we did not win, from the looks of it, the team was in high spirits.

17 May, 2023

2023 ENBDC Weggis Workshop

Marleen, Tanne and Renée went to Switzerland for the ENBDC Weggis workshop. While the day train made it to Switzerland according to schedule, the NightJet got cancelled just prior to departure, which meant that Renée had to get a last minute airplane ticket after all. Luckily she was on the same flight as Jos Jonkers, which made for good travel company and time to catch up.

This year, Tanne was one of the PhD/postdoc organizers, which included a pre-meeting session for just the early career researchers on the day prior to the official start of the workshop. Marleen gave a talk here and both Tanne and Marleen presented posters at the workshop, while Renée gave a talk.

It is always good to be back in Weggis and see old and new faces so we are looking forward to next year already.

30 April, 2023

First OrganoidNL meeting

Together with colleagues from AMOLF and Utrecht (Hubrecht, UMC and Prinses Máxima), Renée organized the very first OrganoidNL symposium to highlight and celebrate all of the exciting organoid research that is going on in the Netherlands. On the evening prior, Thijs and Renée had the honor and pleasure of taking keynote speaker Jacob Hanna out for dinner.

The most heard comment at the meeting?
"Why didn ’t we have this yet?".

This means we will probably be back next year!

And with that it is on to organizing the next meetings as we have exciting things on the horizon for the Dutch chromatin biology and gastruloid research communities.

31 March, 2023

Our 2023 artist in residence arrives

French composer Julia Pajot is our 2023 artist in residence. She has developed her own system to represent various aspects of matter and will apply her system, including spatial orchestration, to our multi scale studies of mammary gland biology - meaning that we should get an orchestral piece of the developmental dynamics of the mammary gland at the molecular, cell and tissue level.

It never hurts to think big. More details on our artist in residency page, link in the menu.

24 March, 2023

Rosa performs at the InScience Festival

Renée tagged along with our 2021-2022 artist in residence Rosa Schogt to the InScience Festival in Nijmegen, where Rosa performed some of her science inspired poetry in the Amazing Discoveries tent.

Smart and perfect set up with silent disco headphones so everybody had clear sound.

18 March, 2023

Short lecture on stem cells and cancer for high school students and their parents

The Science Park Campus open day was held on Friday 17 March. This meant that lots of high school students and their parents visited us to get a feel for our university and to see if our Biomedical Sciences Program aligned with the interests and expectations.

Renée was happy to give a talk about stem cells and cancer again as part of this "studievoorlichting".

17 March, 2023

Review article on visualizing WNT signaling is out

The review article by Tanne and Renée on Visualizing WNT signaling in mammalian systems came out today. See our publications page for all relevant links.

16 March, 2023

PhD defense: Saskia becomes dr. De Man

Today Saskia defended her PhD thesis in De Agnietenkapel, which was filled to the brim with family, friends and (former) colleagues. This was also the first time that Renée acted in the formal capacity of promotor and used her ius promovendi to officially award Saskia the title of doctor.

Saskia did an excellent job in answering questions from the committee members with just the right combination of confident eloquence and critical scientific nuance. In 45 minutes the full scope of the thesis (which literally deserves the description from mouse to molecule) was covered: from functional imaging to computational modelling and genetic screens. We were especially happy that Andres Lebensohn was able to come over from the United States to join in the celebration. Chapter 6 of the thesis describes the results from Saskia’s stay in his lab at the NIH.

Congratulations Saskia - and thank you again for being the driving force behind setting up the lab’s research line on imaging WNT/CTNNB1 signaling!

13 March, 2023

EMBO course Techniques for Mammary Gland Research

Together with Maria Vivanco (Spain) and Martin Jechlinger (Germany) Renée organised an EMBO practical course at the EMBL campus in Heidelberg. This was the 4th time this course was organised, but the first time that Renée was involved.


We had participants from all across the world - from Argentina and Mexico to Finland and Poland. The week was filled with fun and useful science, from fat pad transplantations and carmine stainings to intraductal injections, FACS and 3D organoid cultures with a demonstration of the local lightsheet microscopy set up and imaging facilities to boot.

The EMBL facilities were amazing, as was the local support during the week - not to mention the food in the EMBL canteen...

If the course is evaluated favourably by those attending, we we hope to be back in 2025!

10 March, 2023

Why outreach should count towards valorisation and impact

In the fall, Renée gave a lecture for high school teachers (organised by BetaPartners). Today we learned that one of the teachers was inspired to use the topic of genome editing and the information provided in the lecture to generate new learning materials and assignments for their high school students!

Not only fun to hear, but also evidence that outreach counts towards societal impact and valorisation of our basic research: somewhere in the Netherlands, high school students will soon be repairing oncogenic CTNNB1 mutations (at least on paper or in silico).

10 March, 2023

New PhD thesis

The third PhD thesis of the lab has rolled off the press and it looks beautiful. Saskia will defend this impressive body of work on 13 March.

16 February, 2023

Celebrate good times

Science is full of failure (cloning, grant applications, you name it). Therefore, it is even more important to celebrate the highlights! And luckily we had some happy events too: Anna started - as did most of our students - Tanne’s review article got officially accepted, Renée was co-author on a paper about flying squirrels (it is about WNT5A, really) that was accepted in Science Advances (collaboration with Ricardo Mallino at Princeton), so plenty of reason to have cake, stroopwafels and other cookies (responsibly spread out over multiple weeks).

6 February, 2023

Welcome students, welcome Anna!

Today, Anna started as a technician on the NWO-XL project. We are in the process of recruiting a PhD student, but Anna will help to get things up and running by cloning and generating new reporter alleles and setting up the 3D gastruloid cultures.
Welcome Anna!

We also had a new influx of students: Emma, Carlos, Eva and Marit are going to work at the bench, while Aoming and Jeltje join us for a dry-lab internship. This is a bit of an experiment, as these are our first collaborative internships where we co-supervise Aoming and Jeltje with Marten Postma and Martijs Jonker, who bring necessary expertise on image analysis and bioinformatics.
Welcome all students!

1 February, 2023

Nothing to see here...

... just two scientists doing a bit of tissue culture on Friday evening. The person on the right may have been slightly more rusty but also became more zen as part of the experience.

27 January, 2023

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

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