07 February 2017
New Group Leader joined DanStem
Agnete Kirkeby joined as a new Group Leader to DanStem. Agnete’s research focuses on modelling human brain development with human pluripotent stem cells.
Meet the Scientist, a short interview with Agnete Kirkeby:
On February 6, 2017, Agnete Kirkeby joined Danstem, complementing and extending our research portfolio in the fields of Stem Cell and Developmental Biology.
What are the scientific questions you wish to answer?
"I’m interested in understanding the detailed processes which control human brain development. In particular, I want to understand how the development of the human brain is unique compared to brain development in flies or mice which are most often used to study brain development. The human brain is a highly complex structure, and it consists of hundreds of different subtypes of neural cells, all of which fulfil a highly specific function in the brain network. If we can understand how every single one of these hundreds of subtypes of cells are formed during embryo development, then we can use this knowledge to produce human neurons from human stem cells in the lab. This gives us an absolutely unique opportunity to study these human nerve cells in the lab – as they can be used for drug screening or for transplantation as a regenerative therapy to brain diseases. The opportunity of making and studying human nerve cells in the lab is unique, because we otherwise never have access to living human brain tissue, so we cannot study in detail how human nerve cells function unless we produce them ourselves in the lab."
Tell us about your scientific activities in the past years.
"I’ve been working at the Medical Faculty at Lund University (Sweden) since 2009. Here, I’ve worked on using human stem cells for producing specific types of nerve cells in the lab for drug screening and regenerative therapy with the aim of making new therapies for neurodegenerative diseases. In particular, my work has been highly focused on the development of a new stem cell therapy for Parkinson’s Disease. This work has now come so far in the research process that we have gathered in a large collaboration between researchers in Stockholm, Lund, UK and Germany to prepare for this stem cell therapy to enter clinical trial. As part of the trial, we expect to be able to transplant the first patient in 2019, and we expect that this will attract significant international attention."
Why did you choose to join DanStem?
"I’ve worked at Lund University for >7 years now, and the possibility of moving my research to DanStem was for me a great opportunity to enter a new research environment and to get new colleagues, as a shift in milieu is often stimulating for scientific innovation. DanStem offers attractive deals for young group leaders, and the center has a strong research environment as well as state-of-the-art facilities and equipment. Stem cell research has long been a strong scientific focus in Sweden, but it is still a rather new research field in Denmark. Being Danish, I would like to contribute to stem cell research in Denmark, and in the long run participating in making this one of the strong research focuses of the country, and I’m looking forward to being part of the strong research team at DanStem."
What are the most important factors for you at a work place?
"I highly appreciate close interactions between different research groups through for instance sharing of office space and lab space and through regular joint meetings. This is very important for increasing collaboration and for sharing knowledge between people who are otherwise not working together. I think DanStem provides an excellent environment for such interactions."
Could you tell us something interesting/ surprising about yourself?
"I’ve been living in many different places during my life: Jylland, Zambia, Brazil, Paris, New York, Stockholm and Copenhagen. However, my heart is in Copenhagen and I love this city very much for its atmosphere and culture. I’m looking forward to finally being able to work in Copenhagen and in particular to getting the chance to ride my bike to work every day."
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