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Cell Biology is the discipline that studies the function of cells in the complexity of tissues and organs in the human body in order to understand mechanisms of disease. The tremendous revolutions in the past decade in light microscopy and biosensors to visualize processes in cells have changed cell biology completely.

The track Cell Biology and Advanced Microscopy is a collaborative effort by the University of Amsterdam (UvA) the Academic Medical Centre (AMC) and the Netherlands Cancer Institute (NKI), who collaborate in the van Leeuwenhoek Center for Advanced Microscopy (LCAM). These departments are all front runners in studying cell functions microscopically in time, even down to the single molecule level.

The objectives

The major objective of this track is the understanding of fundamental cell biological research in relation to human disease. This understanding comprises:

1. cell biology in the context of the healthy and diseased human body;
2. the cellular basis of major human diseases such as neurodegenerative diseases, infection by viruses, bacteria and parasites, and cancer such as leukemia;
3. diagnostics such as cytopathology and prenatal screening & fertility-related disorders; and
4. advanced microscopy including live cell imaging, correlative light and electron microscopy, confocal microscopy and the underlying biophysics.

Programme Outline

The programme consists of two core courses, Advanced Microscopy and Clinical Cell Biology and two or three research projects (9 or 6 months). The research projects lead to the writing of a thesis manuscript in English that is in suitable for publication in a scientific journal. Next to the core courses you may choose elective courses from other tracks.   

Advanced microscopy applied to clinical cell biology problems will form the backbone for the research projects. The LCAM partners at UvA, AMC and NKI provide the research projects in close collaboration with scientists in which the master students can participate.

A typical example of such a research project is to create your own genetic encoded sensor (using GFP labelling and cloning techniques), cell transfection & manipulation, performing experiments with living cells using advanced microscopes, interpreting image data, image analysis and processing and finally the design of follow up experiments. It is strongly advised to do at least one research project at one of the three participating departments in LCAM and one research project abroad in one of the many international research labs that collaborate with LCAM.

Core courses

▪ The first course is Molecular Biology of the Cell. This basic theoretical course that is the same for all master tracks in the Medical Biology cluster will recap the molecular basis of cell function including proteins, membranes, DNA structure, cell metabolism, protein synthesis and cellular signalling.

▪ The second course is Advanced Microscopy. The aim of this practical course is to get hands-on experience and theoretical background in performing state-of-the-art (light) microscopy applied to cell biology. The microscope setups on which the training is provided, are part of the van Leeuwenhoek Centre for Advanced Microscopy (LCAM) in Amsterdam.

▪ The third course is Clinical Cell Biology. This theoretical course starts with a general lecture course treating cellular signalling, the cytoskeleton, mechanism/regulation of cell division, structure of cells in tissues, apoptosis, fertility, cellular basis of cancer and metastasis, infection by viruses. The majority of the course consists of actual clinical cell biology topics of research groups at the UvA, AMC and NKI. Topics will include: structure/function of invadopodia, mechanisms of cancer cell migration, role of TRPM7 channels & signalling (NKI); Neurodegenerative diseases, viral/bacterial infection & cytopathology, DNA-damage/repair mechanisms in relation to cancer (AMC); GPCR-signalling, cell division machinery, Ca2+ signaling, signalosome formation at membranes, biosensors and pharmacology (UvA).

Is Cell Biology & Advanced Microscopy the programme for me?

The programme is looking for students who:

• are interested in the molecular and cellular mechanisms underlying disease
• are excited about visualising cells in action using live cell microscopy
• have an interest to learn state-of-the-art single cell microscopy
• are creative and want to design their own genetically encoded biosensors to probe molecular disorders responsible for diseases such as cancer, infection, sterility and problems related to aging
• enjoy labwork and working in a dynamic research team using sophisticated microscopical techniques
• may want to develop novel state-of-the-art image analysis software or microscopy driver software (optional)
• want to pursue a scientific career in top life sciences research departments

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