Dr E.A.J. Reits (1971) has been appointed professor of Cellular Imaging at the University of Amsterdam’s Faculty of Medicine (AMC-UvA).
Eric Reits uses cellular imaging to conduct research aimed at visualising the intracellular breakdown of proteins in neuro-degenerative protein misfolding diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Huntington’s Disease. Reits’s research group are experts on the subject of Huntington’s disease. For a long time, it was thought that the central degradation mechanism of a cell, the ubiquitin-proteasome system (UPS), was inhibited by the aggregating mutant 'huntingtin' protein. It has been revealed, however, that the proteasome is in fact able to degrade the mutant protein so long as it is delivered efficiently; the UPS has also been shown to be unaffected by the aggregations – clumps – that form. As it turns out, the problem lies in inefficient recognition of the mutant protein; as a result of this, the UPS does not receive a clear signal to ‘tidy up’ the aggregation-prone protein.
As a lecturer, Reits is involved in teaching elective and regular courses in cellular biology and microscopy to students in the Bachelor's and Master's Medicine and Biomedical Sciences programmes, courses for PhD candidates within the Graduate School and in the training and supervision of trainees and researchers.
In his capacity as professor, Reits will focus on identifying leads for a potential therapy for Huntington’s disease, with an emphasis on the visualisation and modulation of protein degradation in living cells. His work will make use of advanced microscopy, proteomics, biochemistry and compound screening. These topics will also be thoroughly addressed in the Cell Biology and Advanced Microscopy Master's track, for which he is track coordinator, and in courses offered by the Van Leeuwenhoek Centre for Advanced Microscopy (LCAM), a partnership between AMC, NKI and the UvA's Faculty of Science.
Reits is a medical biologist and member of staff in the Medical Biology department of the Academic Medical Center (AMC-UvA). He also heads the Cellular Imaging core facility at the AMC (www.cellularimaging.nl). Reits obtained his doctorate cum laude as a researcher with the Netherlands Cancer Institute in 2001; he then went on to establish his research group, funded in part by Veni and Vidi grants from NWO. He was awarded additional funding from the Hersenstichting, the Prinses Beatrix Spierfonds and the Cure Huntington’s Disease Initiative (CHDI), among others.
Reits is among the initiators of the Electron Microscopy Centre Amsterdam, a collaboration between all Amsterdam life science research institutes. He serves as secretary of the Dutch Society for Microscopy and chair of the Dutch Huntington Disease Research Network, and is a member of the advisory council of the Dutch Huntington Association. In addition, he is an initiator and board member of the Campagneteam Huntington, a foundation that raises funds for research while organising successful campaigns to draw attention to this oft-overlooked illness (www.doodgezwegen.nl).
Reits will give his inaugural lecture on Thursday 1 February 2018 at 16:00.