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Staff and Research Interest  

Staff

 

Univ. Prof. Georg Dechant, PhD

Chair

Phone: +43 (0)512/9003-71250
E-Mail: georg.dechant@i-med.ac.at 

Sieglinde Morak  

Assistant, Secretary

Phone:+43 (0)512/9003-71251
Fax: +43 (0)512/504-27390  
E-Mail: sieglinde.morak@i-med.ac.at 

Galina Apostolova, PhD. 

Assistant Professor

Phone: +43 (0)512/9003 71254
E-Mail: galina.apostolova@i-med.ac.at

Nico Robin Wahl, M.Sc.

PhD Student

Phone: +43 (0)512/9003-71255  
E-Mail: nico.wahl@i-med.ac.at

Paola Chietera, M.Sc.

PhD Student

Phone: +43 (0)512/9003-71255  
E-Mail:
paola.chietera@i-med.ac.at

Jessica Popottnigg, M.Sc.

Scientific Employee

Phone: +43 (0)512/9003-
E-Mail:
jessica.popottnigg@student.i-med.ac.at

Amelie Nagel, B.Sc.

Master Student

Phone: +43 (0)512/9003-
E-Mail:
amelie.nagel@i-med.ac.at

Diana Daum, B.Sc.

Master Student

Phone: +43 (0)512/9003-
E-Mail:
diana.daum@student.i-med.ac.at

 

 



 

Rechsearch Interest

Univ. Prof. Georg Dechant, PhD

Role:    Univ.-Prof. & Director
Email:  Georg.Dechant@i-med.ac.at

Galina Apostolova, PhD.

Role:    Univ. Ass.
Email:  Galina.Apostolova@i-med.ac.at

A major focus of my research is to study the role for spatial genome organization and nuclear architecture in aspects of neuronal function associated with memory consolidation and cognition. We are employing mouse genetic models of the chromosomal architectural protein SATB2 and a combination of biochemical, cell biological methods, and high-throughput next-generation sequencing to understand how alterations in chromatin looping and/or tethering of chromatin to the nuclear lamina can orchestrate programs of gene expression that underlie long-term neuronal plasticity. We are also using behavior analyses in loss-of-function models to uncover the functional significance of 3D genome topology and nuclear lamina-directed genome organization for adaptation to novel environments, learning behaviors and memory formation.

In humans, rare de novo alterations in SATB2 locus cause a syndrome characterized by developmental delay and severe intellectual disability, whereas common variation is linked to general intelligence and risk for schizophrenia. In collaboration with D. Morris (National University of Ireland), we recently demonstrated that the genes regulated by SATB2 as well as the genes encoding SATB2 interacting proteins are highly constrained. Rare high impact mutations in these genes cause severe cognitive disorders whereas common low impact variants influence cognitive ability in the general population and contribute to schizophrenia and educational attainment. Our long term goal is to gain deeper insights into SATB2 molecular functions in the brain and to understand how defects in the chromatin loop establishing/stabilizing machinery in the neuronal cell nucleus could lead to cognitive dysfunction and memory impairments.

We believe that differentiated postmitotic neurons in order to sustain the demands for lifelong performance and respond to varied environmental stimuli with long-lasting changes in structure and physiology are equipped with specialized mechanisms to reconfigure their 3D genome on a large scale and in a dynamic fashion. Our long-term goal is by studying these mechanisms to facilitate the discovery of novel intranuclear drug targets for treatment of cognitive impairment and mental illness.

Courses offered for the PhD/master students at the Medical University of Innsbruck:

  • Functional Neurogenomics
  • Neural Development and Differentiation

Nico Wahl, M.Sc.

Role:      PhD Student, SPIN Doctoral College
Email:    Nico.Wahl@i-med.ac.at

Nico is interested in higher order chromatin organization and the epigenetic mechanisms underlying memory formation. In his research he focuses on cortical excitatory neurons, genotype differences and activity dependent mechanisms. His aim is to identify novel targets of known intelligence associated regulatory elements.

Nico joined the Dechant lab in October 2017 and is part of the SPIN Neuroscience excellence program. He obtained his M.Sc. at the Management Center Innsbruck and wrote his Master Thesis at the Rockefeller University, New York in the laboratory of Tom Tuschl. There he first gained insight into transcriptomic research and helped establish the 10xGenomics single cell RNA sequencing platform. At the end of 2018 he went to Mount Sinai, New York to work with Schahram Akbarian, M.D., PhD. and Kristen Brennand, PhD. to learn novel techniques to study chromatin dynamics and how to derive excitatory neurons form human induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs). When not in lab Nico enjoys to meet friends and skiing in the Alps.

 

Paola Chietera, M.Sc.

Role:   PhD Student
Email: Paola.Chietera@i-med.ac.at

Paola started her PhD in the Institute for Neuroscience in November 2020 under under Prof. Apostolova’s supervision. Her current project focuses on the nuclear lamina (NL), a meshwork of type-A and –B lamins, which is anchored to the inner part of the nuclear envelope via interactions with inner nuclear membrane (INM) proteins. Paola investigates the role of chromatin-NL interactions and INM proteins in mouse excitatory cortical neurons and their influence on gene expression, spatial genome organization and synaptic plasticity.

Before joining the lab, she absolved her Bachelor degree in Biotechnology at the Management Center Innsbruck (MCI), obtained her Master degree in Molecular Medicine at the Medical University of Innsbruck (MUI) and wrote her Master thesis at the Department of Pharmacology in Prof. Ferraguti´s lab. There, she focused her work on the contribution of mGlu5 receptors in different subfields of the mouse ventral hippocampus to the manifestation of anxiety-like behaviour. In particular, she helped establishing a computational approach for the objective quantification of the extent of mGluR5 ablation and its correlation with the behavioural phenotype. During her stay, she gained experience in behavioural test paradigms and molecular biology techniques.
 

Jessica Popottnigg, M.Sc.

Role:    Scientific Employee
Email:  Jessica.Popottnigg@i-med.ac.at

Jessica is eager to get a deeper understanding of neuroscience and its unraveled mechanisms while concentrating on genetic factors. She is further curious about the several malfunctions of the nervous system and their diverse origins. She obtained the bachelor degree at the Leopold-Franzen-Universtiy of Innsbruck in 2018. The bachelor project focused on the relevance of Hedgehog Signaling in the development of the zebra fish.
For her Master thesis, she joined the Institute for Neuroscience of the Medical University of Innsbruck in February 2020. During the project, she established and characterized a hiPSC‑based system to generate cortical neuronal cultures. She made use of the lentiviral overexpression system to induce the neuronal differentiation of hNPCs via the neurogenic factor hNGN2. Currently she is working as a scientific employee in the Dechant Lab and is concentrating on determining the influence of SATB2 on the transcriptional landscape in human excitatory cortical cultures.
 

Diana Daum, B.Sc.

Role:    Master Student
Email:  Diana.Daum@i-med.ac.at

Diana has joined the research group in April 2021 within the frame of her master’s thesis and is currently enrolled in the MSc programme in Molecular Medicine at the Medical University of Innsbruck. She is eager to gain knowledge about fundamental and molecular neuroscience, as well as current high-throughput technologies to study neurogenomic structure and function. In her work, she is interested in molecular factors governing dynamic architectural changes in the neuronal genome that lead to rapid transcriptional reprogramming governing learning and memory. Therein, she is employing murine primary cortical cultures, gaining experience in various techniques of immunocytochemistry, fluorescence in situ hybridization and confocal imaging. 

Diana obtained her Bachelor’s degree in Biology at the Leopold-Franzens-University of Innsbruck and completed her studies in 2019 at Åbo Akademi in Turku, Finland. In her free time, she enjoys being in nature, snowboarding and skating with friends.

 

Alumni

Priv. Doc. Dr. Roxana Deleanu, MD, PHD

 

Email: Irina-Roxana.deleanu@i-med.ac.at

Current position: Senior Postdoc - Institute for Neuroanatomy, Medical University Innsbruck

Patrick Feurle, PhD

Email:    Patrick.Feurle@i-med.ac.at

Institute for Neuroscience - Gemeinsame Einrichtung für Neurowissenschaften