Stem cells produce all the cells and specialised cell types in the body through cell division. We study how individual stem cells in the brain regulate their division outcomes from development to ageing.

When stem cells divide, they select a division mode that is symmetric or asymmetric. This division mode determines how many specialised and stem cell daughter cells are generated per stem cell division. Defective division mode selection is implicated in developmental disorders, diseases such as cancer, and in the ageing process. With our work, we aim to identify mechanisms that could be used to (re)direct neural stem cell division outcomes.

Why and how Judith studies brain stem cells (Dutch only)



How our research benefits to society

To study neural stem cell biology, we use the zebrafish as our main model system as they are very suitable for microscopy and genetic manipulations. Research in our lab is currently focussed on understanding:

  • When making decisions on division mode and cell fates, stem cell integrate cell-intrinsic and -extrinsic signals and factors. Although several of these signals and factors have been identified, it is not clear how stem cell integrates these factors in selection of its division mode and daughter cell fates. In particular, we are interested in the role of fate-determining factors such as signaling pathways and subcellular structures such as centrioles in determination of the outcome of neural stem cell divisions.

  • Individual neural stem cells show considerable heterogeneity in the cell type and number of mature cells they produce. It is not clear whether subtle molecular differences underlie this heterogeneity and could explain variations in division outcomes. We are currently developing methods to couple time-lapse imaging of neural stem cells in living zebrafish to profiling of individual cell gene expression profiles. With this, we hope to identify which molecular differences exist between individual neural stem cells that differentially influence their division outcomes. Moreover, we also assess the role of cell biological properties such as cell polarity and position of the cells within the nervous system in determining division outcomes.

  • In the Knowlands project by the RUG Pre-University Academy (Scholierenakademie), short movie clips and lesson packages were developed to reach year 3 and 4 of pre-university high schools (VWO) and teach about research skills.

    In the project, University of Groningen scientists from the alpha, beta and gamma disciplines participated and explained how their science works. ERIBA scientist Judith Paridaen was one of the participants, and she showed how zebrafish models are used in biomedical research, and explained her research topic of neural stem cells.

    Watch the videos (in Dutch only)


European Research Institute for the Biology of Ageing

University Medical Center Groningen
Antonius Deusinglaan 1
9713 AV Groningen
The Netherlands