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Dr E. M. Hol (1966) has been named Professor by Special Appointment of Biology of Glial and Neural Stem Cells at the University of Amsterdam’s (UvA) Faculty of Science. The special chair was designated on behalf of the Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience (NIN-KNAW).

Dr E. M. Hol (1966) has been named Professor by Special Appointment of Biology of Glial and Neural Stem Cells at the University of Amsterdam’s (UvA) Faculty of Science. The special chair was designated on behalf of the Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience (NIN-KNAW).

Elly Hol reseaches the function of glial cells in the brains of healthy individuals as well as in the brains of patients with Alzheimer’s disease or Parkinson’s disease. Glial cells, and particularly astrocytes, play a key role in the brain’s physiology. Astrocytes play an active role in neuronal communication and they are the stem cells of the adult brain. Astrocytes are also factors in various brain diseases. Hol and her research group study, among other things, the reactive glial cells created following brain damage caused by a degenerative brain disease. She studies how these cells contribute to the dysfunction of the affected neural networks, for example via a direct effect on the synapse (the contact point between two neurons) or by forming a barrier around the affected area.

In a second line of research, Hol is studying the stem cell properties of astrocytes. Her research group recently demonstrated that the brains of patients of Parkinson’s disease, like the brains of healthy people, still contain viable stem cells. The group is currently studying how a person’s own stem cells can be stimulated with a view to eventually inciting these cells to repair the brain. Collaboration with research groups of the UvA’s Swammerdam Institute for Life Sciences – Center for NeuroScience (SILS-CNS) will reinforce cellular and molecular biological research into the fundamental processes in glial and stem cells.

Since 1997, Hol has been employed by the Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience (NIN), where she has headed the Astrocyte Biology & Neurodegeneration research group since 2006. Prior to that, her employers included the Max Planck Institute for Neurobiology in Martinsried, Germany. In 2009 Hol was awarded a Vici grant from the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO). She is the chair of the European COST network NANONET and of the European Society for Intermediate Filament Biology. She has published many articles in scientific journals including Science, Brain and Molecular Psychiatry.