Anne Hedegaard

I joined the lab in 2020 as a Postdoctoral Research Assistant and I will be investigating how inflammatory signals associated with neurodegeneration, and Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) in particular, propagate from one brain cell type to another. This is important, because while current models have worked out that activated microglia release specific cytokines which induce a reactive astrocytic phenotype, the identity of the neurotoxic signal released from astrocytes remains undefined. This project is at the interface between academic research and pharmaceutical drug discovery in collaboration with Eli Lilly and Company.

I am interested in establishing more physiologically relevant in vitro models of human brain cells, in which we can study how they interact. For this purpose, I am using induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) technology to derive both neurons, astrocytes and microglia, which I am investigating both on their own and in co-culture to elucidate their cross-talk.

I came to neuroscience from a background in biophysics (BSc University of Copenhagen, Denmark, 2012), mostly because Professor Claire Meehan was kind enough to supervise a physics student who wanted to dabble with in vivo electrophysiology. To begin my neuroscience journey properly, I embarked on the MSc in Neuroscience at University of Oxford (2014), which exposed me to several labs in Oxford and ultimately led me to pursue a PhD in the lab of Professor Colin Akerman. Here I combined iPSC-derived co-cultures, electrophysiology and optogenetics to examine astrocytic modulation of synaptic transmission. After finishing the PhD I remained in Oxford and first worked as a postdoc in the Lovestone/Buckley group on a project comparing how well iPSC-derived neuronal phenotypes map onto in vivo clinical measures from the same AD patient donors. I also returned to the Akerman lab to continue exploring activity-dependent signalling in iPSC-derived astrocytes, before transferring my love of astrocytes to the James lab.

Fun fact: I find that being high up and upside-down helps get ideas flowing, so I achieve this through acrobatics and by hanging from a trapeze on a regular basis.