Department of Cell Biology

The Department of Cell Biology is one of the three Departments that are part of the Center for Molecular Medicine of the University Medical Center (UMC) Utrecht. The Department of Cell Biology is an integrated academic center for fundamental and translational research, and education in the fields of cancer, stem cells and immunology. Its research fully fits within five of the six focus areas (speerpunten) of the UMC Utrecht: Personalized Cancer Care, Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cells, Immunology and Infection,Child Health and Brain.

The faculty of the Department of Cell Biology comprises ten principal investigators, who with their independent teams work on various interrelated research topics within the biomedical life sciences. This creates a unique environment where a variety of experimental and theoretical expertises and competencies come together.

  • Prof. Judith Klumperman: Understand how genetic mutations lead to cellular disorganization and disease, with special emphasis on diseases related to the cellular digestive system, the endo-lysosomes.
  • Prof. Madelon Maurice: Mechanisms of Wnt signaling in stem cells, development and cancer.
  • Prof. Catherine Rabouille: (part-time associated) Regulation of secretion during development and by growth conditions

Together these research teams integrate cell and molecular biology, biochemistry, genetics, light & electron microscopy and high-throughput screening methods in order to tackle a diversity of biomedical questions with innovative approaches and from unique angles. In addition, a large variety of model systems are employed, including yeast, human-derived cell lines, adult stem cells, tissues and mouse models.

The Department also hosts three technical facilities available to research groups from within the UMC Utrecht, Hubrecht Institute and other interested parties: the Cell Microscopy Core (CMC) and the Cell Screening Core (CSC). The CMC assists microscopy-based research by providing access to state-of-the-art light and (immuno)-electron microscopy equipment and expertise. The CSC provides technological support to high throughput screening projects that require the use of automation. The focus of the CSC is on automated microscopy screens, so-called 'High Content Screens'. The CSC makes use of libraries of chemical compounds, siRNAs and other reagents such as miRNAs and provides library management.
The iPSC facility assists scientists in reprograming somatic cells to iPSC.


On 14 October Wienand successfully defended his thesis ‘Knowledge Discovery in High Content Screening’. Promotores & co-promotores: Prof. dr. Judith Klumperman, Prof. dr. Sjaak Brinkkemper and dr. Marco Spruit. The research of this thesis is for a large part commercialized in the company Core Life Analytics, which Wienand founded in 2016 together with CEO David Egan.
Program kick-off meeting. Please, register via this link and spread it in your academic network
Following a two-year evaluation process by a panel of international experts, the European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures (ESFRI) has granted Euro-BioImaging the Landmark status of “European Research Infrastructure for Imaging Technologies in Biological and Biomedical Sciences”.  This status is recognised by the European Commission as a benchmark for quality, and recommends that Euro-BioImaging is the “go-to” Research Infrastructure to support imaging research across Europe. ESFRI monitors and provides strategic guidance to pan-European Research Infrastructures, like Euro-BioImaging, to ensure that Europe has the world-class resources it needs to support science and innovation. Landmark Research Infrastructures score highly on numerous parameters including:  scientific excellence; ability to reinforce critical areas of European research competitiveness; long-term sustainability; contributions to innovation, and; education and training. As such, achieving Landmark status recognises the importance of Euro-BioImaging in supporting excellent research across Europe. The aim of Euro-BioImaging, is to break down the barriers associated with biological and medical imaging. It does this by providing open access to imaging technologies, resources and expertise to scientists across Europe to alleviate the bottlenecks in their research. The Cell Microscopy Core of the section Cell Biology participates in EuroBioImaging as expert Node for correlative light – electron microscopy.
Check out for PhD positions ESR1.2 and ERS1.3 in the Maurice and Klumperman groups at ; Section Stem Cells and organoid Biology
Caspar Jonker et al have demonstrated new functions for two of the CORVET subunits, VPS3 and VPS8. These two subunits are able to regulate a pathway for integrin trafficking independent of their function in CORVET. The results have been published in Nature Communications:
Job Fermie et al have developed a new workflow to correlate the live-cell dynamics and ultrastructure of endosomal compartments, using a combination of live-cell fluorescence imaging and focused ion beam scanning electron microscopy. The results have been published in Traffic:
As from June 1st 2016, Madelon Maurice has been appointed Professor of Molecular Cell Biology.
Madelon Maurice has received a prestigious VICI grant from NWO. Title: Controlling the controller: Regulation of signals that guide stem and cancer cell growth and differentiation. Stem cell-mediated tissue renewal is precisely controlled by signals from the environment. These signals are often misused by cancer cells. Madelon aims to understand how stem cells capture and process these signals in order to better intervene in these processes in tissue repair and cancer.
Autophagy is a process that is switched on if there are insufficient nutrients and it is important for various cellular functions. The research supported by this grant will study how autophagy affects the immune system. Autophagy-manipulation could help to control autoimmune diseases such as (juvenile) arthritis.
The group of Fulvio Reggiori, together with that of Maurizio Molinari (IRB Bellinzona) and Matthias Peter (ETH Zurich),has received a Sinergia grant of approximately 1’550’000 Swiss Francs from the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNF), to study the selective degradation of the endoplasmic reticulum by autophagy.
to join the laboratory of Fulvio Reggiori.
has been highlighted in the Spanish newspaper El pais.
has received a PhD fellowship from the China Scholarship Council (CSC) of the Ministry of Education to perform her studies in the laboratory of Fulvio Reggiori.
in the regulation of Treg cell function. More...
to pursue her studies in the group of Fulvio Reggiori.
Magdalena Lorenowicz was awarded the Reumafonds grant to study the molecular mechanism regulating the immunosuppressive properties of exosomes derived from mesenchymal stromal/stem cells and their potential use as a treatment for rheumatoid arthritis.

Work on how cargoes are transported through cells traces back to previous Nobel winners George Palade, Albert Claude, Christian de Duve  and Günther Blobel (1999). The development of electron microscopy and cell fractionation techniques by Palade, Claude and de Duve paved the way for their discoveries of such subcellular organelles/structures as endoplasmic reticulum, lysosomes, and ribosomes as well as the assembly of secretory proteins. Blobel brought the field to the next level by uncovering a bar code on newly synthesized proteins and the characterization of the barcode reader that is required for their targeting and delivery to the correct intracellular compartment.