The passing of a pure spirit

Mumna Al Banchaabouchi 1968-2018

Last week we received the sad news of the passing of Mumna Al Banchaabouchi, Head of the Phenotyping Facility at EMBL Rome from 2004 to 2012. The news was painful and left us shaken. Mumna passed away at the untimely age of 49 after a battle with metastatic breast cancer. Her death leaves a dark hole in our hearts – especially for those of us who were not able to share her passage and know her thoughts in those last moments.

Continue reading “The passing of a pure spirit”

Eating synapses – seeing is believing

After more than five years of heroic work, EMBL Rome PhD student Laetitia Weinhard in the Gross Lab has finally completed her massive imaging study of microglia. Published last week in BioRxiv, the work uses correlated light and electron microscopy (CLEM) as well as time-lapse light sheet imaging to find out whether microglia eat synapse during brain development. Continue reading “Eating synapses – seeing is believing”

Escaping the lab on the Silk Road

This summer I managed to steal away from the lab to fulfill my childhood dream of driving from Europe to India. The idea that a culture so exotic and different than ours is nevertheless part of the same landmass and people like Alexander the Great, Ibn Battuta, and Marco Polo had managed to walk to Asia always held a deep fascination with me. Continue reading “Escaping the lab on the Silk Road”

Optomania

Daniel Rossier & Violetta La Franca (Gross Group)

This week our lab did our first successful optogenetics experiment. Postdoctoral fellow Daniel Rossier and Sapienza University Masters student Violetta La Franca (above) have been trying to understand why animals like to do things even if they don’t get rewarded for doing it. It’s the old question of why a cat chases its tail – it just doesn’t make sense according to most neuroscience theories that talk about reward and punishment as the main drivers of behavior. Continue reading “Optomania”