Head of section & PI

Dr. Henne Holstege

Associate Professor, Head of section: Genomics of Neurodegenerative Diseases and Aging, the Department of Human Genetics.
PI 100-plus Study

Henne Holstege majored in biochemistry at the University of Leiden, The Netherlands. During her studies, she spent a year at Harvard University in Boston, where she investigated the molecular mechanisms of satiety. She did her PhD at the Netherlands Cancer Institute where she studied the somatic genetic aberrations associated with the development of breast cancer. After her PhD she applied her knowledge of molecular genetics to study the genetic factors underlying the increased risk of cognitive decline, but also those that increase the chance to maintain high levels of cognitive function while achieving extreme ages.

Currently, Henne Holstege is an associate professor at the department of Human Genetics of the Amsterdam University Medical Center where she runs an independent research section: Genomics of Neurodegenerative Diseases and Aging. She is a staff-member of the Amsterdam Alzheimer Center and she is affiliated with the Delft Bioinformatics Lab of Technical University Delft.

Senior Researchers

Dr. Sven van der Lee

Research into missing hereditary factors.

Collaborating with EADB consortium (Alzheimer Disease Biobank).

Dr. Sven van der Lee is a medical researcher at the Alzheimer Center in Amsterdam. After becoming a doctor at the LUMC in Leiden, he did his PhD at the ErasmusMC in Rotterdam. With his PhD research, he contributed to the discovery of several hereditary factors that influence the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. He now is continuing this research at the Alzheimer Center in Amsterdam and the Department of Human Genetics. Additionaly, he is trying to apply the findings from genetic research to improve the diagnosis of dementia in daily practice. 

Sponsored by Memorabel ZonMw

Jenna Najar

Research into the biological overlap between neurodegenerative disorder and psychiatric disorders

Dr. Jenna Najar is a medical doctor and resident in old age psychiatry at Sahlgrenska University hospital, Gothenburg, Sweden, and a postdoc researcher at the department of Human Genetics of the Amsterdam University Medical Center, Genomics of Neurodegenerative Diseases and Aging. During her PhD at Gothenburg University, Gothenburg, Sweden, Jenna studied several risk factors for dementia, such as hormonal, genetic, and lifestyle factors. After defending her PhD in 2021, Jenna started her residency in old age psychiatry and cognitive disorders, where she got the inspiration to understand more about the biological overlap between neurodegenerative disorders and psychiatric disorders. She is motivated to extend the current knowledge on the genetic predisposition of neurodegenerative disorders and psychiatric disorders by identifying genetic pleiotropy of the diseases and potential shared disease mechanisms, which is of great importance for improving patient care, advancement in patient screening and precision medicine, and development of therapeutic strategies.

Dr. ir. Marc Hulsman

Bioinformatician, faculty member of Department of Human Genetics. 

Collaborating with ADES (Alzheimer’s Disease European Sequencing Consortium).

Marc is motivated by the data science challenges that are often encountered in our research projects. Also, he is interested in revealing and understanding the genetic factors that affect cognitive decline with ageing. He studied computer science at the Technical University of Delft, and majored in bioinformatics. After that, he went on to do a PhD at the Delft Bioinformatics Lab, studying methodologies to normalize and integrate disparate types of data, to allow the extraction of new knowledge. During this time, he developed an expertise in statistics, machine learning, database normalization techniques and database design. After a post-doc in which he studied cellular connectivity in fungi, he joined the 100-plus study early in 2014 as senior researcher at the Department of Human Genetics. Currently, his focus is on the rare variants in Alzheimer’s disease. To this end, he analyses genetic data from a large number of international partners (ADES consortium) at the Dutch national supercomputer, to reveal new genes that play a role in Alzheimer’s disease. 

Technical Support

Lydian Knoop

Genomic sequencing

After finishing her masters Neurobiology in 2021 Lydian started to work as a research assistant in the 100-plus team. Her two main focusses are sequencing the DNA of centenarians with PacBio sequencing and assisting in neuropathological analysis of the centenarian brain. She uses her bachelors in Biomedical Lab-research with a track in genetics for her work in sequencing DNA, and her masters in Neurobiology to assist PhD-students and interns in neuropathological analysis. Even though she does not meet centenarians during her work, Lydian has the honor to analyse and study centenarians in a lab setting. Besides her work she likes to paint, cook and travel as much as possible.

Jana Krizova

Genomic sequencing

Jana obtained her master’s degree in Animal Biotechnology from Mendel University in Bron, Czech Republic. Her thesis focused on developing a diagnostic algorithm of the LPL gene in order to find patients suitable for Alipogene tiparvovec, the first licensed gene therapy in Europe. Later, she gained experience as an analyst in a Clinical genetics laboratory. In 2023 Jana joined the 100-plus team where she is working with PacBio long-read sequencing. She is excited about this new technology, which stands out by its accuracy. Furthermore, she is looking forward to learning about the outcomes of the
100-plus study.
 

j.krizova@amsterdamumc.nl

Maruelle Luimes

Technical Support

Maruelle obtained her bachelor’s degree in Psychobiology and her master’s degree in Neurobiology at the University of Amsterdam. During her final master’s internship at the pathology department of the VUmc, she focused on brain pathology in Alzheimer’s Disease and became aware of the 100-plus research. After graduating in 2023, Maruelle started working as a research technician at the 100-plus group. She is focusing on neuropathological characteristics in the centenarian brain in post-mortem tissue and is hoping to contribute to unraveling the mysteries and strengths of the healthy centenarian brain.

m.c.luimes@amsterdamumc.nl

 

Research Assistants

Marieke Graat

Practical team member

After graduating from her research master in Cognitive and Clinical Neuroscience at Maastricht University, Marieke spent a few years working as a software engineer. Wanting to return to her field of interest, she has now joined the 100-plus study as a research assistant. Her main focus is the data collection, for which she visits the centenarians at home, as well as other supporting tasks relating to the study. In her spare time she likes to swim and play the piano.

Chandeny Bennewitz

Practical team member - Master student

Chandeny has a bachelor’s degree in Psychobiology and is currently obtaining her master’s degree in Neurobiology at the University of Amsterdam. She will be joining the practical team as an intern. For the upcoming months she will be involved with data collection during the house visits, supporting administrative tasks and she will be writing a research report. She is interested in the consequences of aging on the brain and cognitive functioning. For her research project she will be focusing on the association between blood-based Alzheimer’s Disease specific biomarkers, cognition and pathology in cognitively healthy centenarians. 

Myke van der Hoorn

Practical team member

After graduating from the bachelor Nursing, Myke worked as a nurse at the orthopedic and neurosurgical unit in OLVG in Amsterdam. During her work as a nurse, she studied the master Health Sciences at VU University because of her interest in research. At the VUmc, she will become part of the practical team of the 100-plus study as a research assistant and she is very excited to meet the centenarians and to hear all their experiences. In her spare time she likes to play football and meet up with friends in the city.

m.h.vanderhoorn@amsterdamumc.nl

Dominique Daatselaar

Practical team member

Dominique has finished her master’s in Neurosciences at VU Amsterdam in 2023. After finishing her internship at the VUmc during which she especially enjoyed meeting patients, she has now joined the practical team of the 100-plus study as a research assistant. She is excited about working with centenarians and hearing about their life experiences. She looks forward to contributing to the 100-plus study and hopes that the insights gained through this study will help in the prevention or treatment of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease. In her spare time, she likes to go for a run, paint and spend time in nature.

d.a.h.daatselaar@amsterdamumc.nl

Postdocs

Alex Salazar

Comparison of long read sequences from Alzheimer's disease patients and cognitively healthy centenarians. 

Collaborating with Prof. Dr. Ir. M.J.T. (Marcel) Reinders at the Delft Bioinformatics Lab at the Technical University Delft and PacBio.

Alex is interested in understanding how structural variation influences human neurodegenerative diseases. He previously worked at TU Delft as a PhD student using long-read sequencing technology to characterize the genomes of industrial yeast strains. Afterwards, he moved to Copenhagen, Denmark, and joined a start-up company, SNIPR BIOME, as a Bioinformatic Scientist aiming to develop CRISPR-based technology to modulate human microbiomes. Given his strong background in microbial genomics, he hopes to one day incorporate microbiome data to better understand how both genetics and the human gut influences brain development.

Sponsored by AD-REPEAT (TKI PPP grant), Amsterdam Neuroscience

Niccoló Tesi

Genetic factors that are associated with becoming a cognitively healthy centenarians in the context of Alzheimer's disease and human longevity. 

Collaborating with Prof. Dr. Ir. M.J.T. (Marcel) Reinders at the Delft Bioinformatics Lab at the Technical University Delft and Prof. Dr. W.M. (Wiesje) van der Flier at the Amsterdam Alzheimer Center.

Niccolò was born in Florence, grew in a little village in the beautiful tuscanian countryside before moving, first to Spain, then to the UK, and finally to The Netherlands, increasing his international view without forgetting where he came from, which is still the best place in the world. Nicco is curious and always eager to learn something new. Genetics really fascinates him, it is amazing how a tiny molecule can influence the way we look like, behave, age and react to sicknesses. He is very interested in the tech-world: computer, photography, videography, data analysis and machine learning. And because modern times can be stressful, he likes to escape this busyness by listening to some good-old records or going around with the skateboard.

Sponsored by VUmc Foundation.

PhD students

Andrea Ganz

Molecular analysis of the post-mortem brain tissue from the 100-plus Study participants.

Collaborating with Dr. J.J.M. (Jeroen) Hoozemans, department of pathology of Amsterdam UMC and Prof. Dr. A.B. (Guus) Smit, VU University: Center for Neurogenomics and Cognitive Research . 

Andrea Ganz is from Mainz, Germany and studied biosciences and molecular neurobiology at the TU Kaiserslautern before moving to Amsterdam to start her PhD with the 100-plus Study in a collaboration with the CNCR and the pathology department of the Amsterdam UMC. Andrea investigates how the brains of the 100-plussers differ from those of people who get dementia. She is analyzing this both on a molecular level and using neuropathology. By comparing the proteins in the healthy 100-plussers with those seen in Dementia patients or younger healthy individuals, she identified proteins that are specifically tied to dementia or aging and was able to identify a few proteins that characterize healthy aging as in the 100-plussers in particular. She hopes that this information will help to better understand what healthy aging in the brain really is and that this will ultimately be useful for the treatment of people who do get dementia. Andrea will finish her PhD in 2021.

Sponsored by Dioraphte and Scientific Excellence Program of the Neuroscience Campus Amsterdam (AD Protectomics).

Meng Zhang

100-plus brain proteomics data analysis.

Collaborating with Prof. Dr. Ir. M.J.T. (Marcel) Reinders at the Delft Bioinformatics Lab at the Technical University Delft

Meng was born in Nanjing China. He is a PhD student studying at the Delft Bioinformatics Lab at Technical University Delft. His main aim is to increase the understanding of the building blocks of human beings. With a background in computer science, he uses and designs bioinformatics solutions to reach his aim. 

Rita Guimarães

Structural variants as genetic drivers of Alzheimer’s disease.

Collaborating with Dr. F.M.J. (Frank) Jacobs at University of Amsterdam. Visit the Frank Jacobs Lab.

Rita is a PhD candidate at the 100-plus Study and the evolutionary neurogenomics lab at the University of Amsterdam. She did her bachelors’ degree in Cellular and Molecular Biology and her masters’ degree in Molecular Genetics and Biomedicine, at the NOVA University of Lisbon, in Portugal. She came to Amsterdam during the masters’ degree for an internship, which allowed her to dive into the previously known as “junk” DNA. This repetitive type of DNA, overlooked for so many years, is now the focus for complex disorders, such as Alzheimer’s disease. Rita investigates how the structural variation in repetitive DNA might be associated to an increased risk to develop Alzheimer’s disease.

Sponsored by Alzheimer Nederland

Linda Lorenz

The association between fluid biomarkers and cognition in cognitively healthy centenarians and their family members. 

Collaborating with Dr. S. (Sietske) Sikkes and Prof. Dr. Ir. C.E. (Charlotte) Teunissen, Neurochemistry Laboratory at Amsterdam UMC.

Linda Lorenz studied Neuropsychology in Amsterdam and currently is a PhD student with the 100-plus Study. She is part of the practical team, which means she gets to visit the centenarians in their homes and administer a neuropsychological assessment and several questionnaires. The practical team find meeting the centenarians the most fun part of their job. As for the study, besides the cognitive testing, we also ask the participants for a blood donation and if they would be willing to donate their brain to the study after passing away. Linda’s current project entails measuring the association between cognition and fluid biomarkers such as Aβ42, Aβ40, pTau-181, NfL and GFAP in both the blood and cerebrospinal fluid of cognitively healthy centenarians and their family members.

The neuropsychology of centenarians will be put in the context of aging in collaboration with ANDI-NORMS. 

Sponsored by BrightFocus Foundation and Memorabel ZonMW.

Susan Rohde

Neuropathology and Functional Characteristics of the Centenarian Brain.

Collaborating with Dr. J.J.M. (Jeroen) Hoozemans, department of pathology of Amsterdam UMC. 

Susan obtained her bachelor’s degree in Psychobiology (2018) and master’s degree in Neurobiology (2020) at the University of Amsterdam. In November 2020, Susan has started her PhD project at the 100-plus Study. She will investigate the neuropathological and functional characteristics of the centenarian brain. Susan is especially interested in a rare genetic mutation that is enriched in our cohort of cognitively healthy centenarians. This genetic mutation protects against multiple types of dementia and increases the likelihood to reach extreme ages. We hope to understand how this genetic mutation delays the onset of dementia and alters brain processes. This knowledge may identify promising therapeutic targets for AD.

Sponsored by VUmc Research B.V.

Matthijs de Waal

Identifying and treating SORL1-associated Alzheimer's disease

Collaborating with Prof. Dr. Ir. C.E. (Charlotte) Teunissen, Neurochemistry Laboratory at Amsterdam UMC.

Coming from a biomedical background, Matthijs always had interest in genetic and neurological research. After his Bachelor Biomedical Labresearch at the appplied university of Inholland, he went to the VU University to study Neurosciences. For his master thesis he moved to New York to study common and rare risk variants in Schizophrenia. Matthijs’ search to combine both neuroscience and genetics led him eventually to our lab. He started his PhD project where he will investigate the SORL1-gene in more depth. The challenge is to identify which of the variants of this gene are causative or risk-increasing and which are benign. Hopefully, this knowledge would help both counseling and finding treatment for patients with these variants. 

Yaran Zhang

Yaran is from Beijing, China. She did her Bachelor’s degree in Life Science at National Tsing Hua University in Taiwan, which also allowed her to work in research groups aboard. During that few years, she found her passion in neuroscience and was involved in several neurological research projects. After finishing her Master’s degree in Bioinformatics at Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam, she was thrilled to joined the 100-plus Study as a PhD candidate. She is interested in the genetics behind neurodegenerative diseases and is currently investigating the structural variations in the long-read sequencing data of Alzheimer’s disease patients and centenarians. In addition to science, she also enjoys various forms of arts.  

Janna Dijkstra

Identifying hereditary factors of neurodegenerative diseases through family research

Janna Dijkstra is a medical researcher at the Alzheimer Center. She obtained a Master of Science at the Free University (2019) and a Medical Degree at Amsterdam UMC (2022). Her PhD research focuses on hereditary factors of dementia. It continues to fascinate her that the genome, being microscopically small, can play a significant role in developing certain diseases. Through studying the genetic code she will try to better understand rare familial variants of dementia. 

Daniel Álvarez Sirvent

Dani studied biology at Universidad Complutense de Madrid, and quickly got interested in human genetics and immunogenetics. He moved to Amsterdam in 2018 to study a joint masters degree (UvA and VU) in bioinformatics. Afterwards, he joined GenDx as a software developer and bioinformatician, helping to advance the HLA and transplantation fields. In 2022, he decided to move to a more research focused environment and joined the 100-plus study as a PhD student. He attempts to discover the connections between the good cognitive health of the centenarians and their immunogenetic characteristics, by using long-read sequencing. He wishes that dementia can be cured in the future, applying to treatments all the knowledge obtained by the study. He likes to play football specially when it´s not raining, and when it is, he goes to the movies or enjoys a music gig. 

Michelle Smulders

Michelle obtained her bachelor’s degree in Natural and Social Sciences (2019) at the University of Amsterdam, where she learned to look at research from an interdisciplinary perspective, while specialising in one field (neurobiology). Her master’s degree was Pathophysiology and Psychopharmacology (2021), with a major in biomedical data analysis. In 2022, she started as a PhD student at the Alzheimer Center Amsterdam. Michelle is part of the ABOARD project, which aims to develop a personalized diagnosis, prediction and prevention of Alzheimer’s disease. Her PhD project focuses on resilience (i.e., protection) against Alzheimer’s disease. She aims to find and characterize people that are very resilient against Alzheimer’s despite the presence of risk factors. We call these people “escapees”, as they “escape” their risk. Michelle’s goal is to understand the mechanisms underlying resilience in escapees, so we can hopefully use these mechanisms as targets for prevention or intervention in the future.

m.n.c.a.smulders@amsterdamumc.nl

Master students

Lotte Bijker 

Lotte is a second-year Master student Neurosciences at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. Throughout her bachelor Biomedical Sciences she found an interest in neurosciences and immunology. With her internship at the 100-plus study she will combine these two interest in one project. During her master thesis she will investigate the role of microglia during healthy aging. By studying microglia markers in relation to AD pathology and cognition in the centenarian brain, she hopes to find a microglia signature that shows resistance or resilience of the centenarian to AD pathology and cognitive decline. 

l.j.bijker@amsterdamumc.nl

Alida Leistra 

Alida has a bachelor’s degree in Health and Life sciences and is currently obtaining her master’s degree in Personalized Medicine at the Vrije Universiteit of Amsterdam. She will join our team as a research intern at the department of Pathology and will investigate the relation between tau pathology, cognitive performance, and other neuropathological hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease in centenarians. 

Alida is interested in the cause of the delayed onset of dementia and altered brain processes in our cohort of centenarians. This knowledge may help us to identify subgroups within the population of AD patients which will enable an improved and more personalized therapeutic approach for AD patients in the future.  

a.leistra@amsterdamumc.nl

Stamatia Karagianni

Stamatia holds a degree in Psychology from the University of Athens, and she is a current Research Master’s student in Cognitive Neuropsychology at the Vrije Universiteit of Amsterdam. With a strong belief that “everything lies in the mind”, she decided to pursue a career in neuropsychology. As a research intern in our team, Stamatia is investigating the correlation between plasma biomarkers NfL and GFAP with cognitive performance in cognitively healthy centenarians. Her goal is to discover novel insights regarding these promising neurodegenerative biomarkers and cognition, both cross-sectionally and longitudinally.

Additionally, Stamatia is a research assistant at the Spinoza Center, as she believes that the future of research lies in combining methods and fields. She enjoys self-sarcasm, long walks with music, theater, and parties. In the future, she hopes to expand her knowledge of biomarkers in the context of multiple sclerosis and anorexia nervosa.

s.karagianni@amsterdamumc.nl

Bachelor students

Famke Kaptein

Famke is a bachelor student at the applied university of Leiden, where she studies Biomedical Lab Research. During her internship, Famke will develop an immunoassay that allows a quantitative measurement of SORLA levels in Cerebral Spinal Fluid. In addition, she will investigate the difference of SORLA levels between carriers with SORL1-genetic risk variants.

She is particularly intrigued by the genetic factors that correlate with neurodegenerative diseases. Her strong desire to make a difference in the world of neurodegenerative research has been anchored in her life goals for many years. Thanks to her project, she believes she has found the right starting point to achieve her objectives.

f.kaptein@amsterdamumc.nl 

Bioinformatician Alzheimer Genetics Hub

Georgii Ozhegov

Georgii is a bioinformatician at the Alzheimer Genetics Hub. He previously worked at Novel Software Systems and developing pipelines for automatization processing of genomics data. Georgii is interested in the study of the genetic causes of neurodegeneration and how various genetic alterations influence brain processes. Also, he has experience in microbiology and biochemistry from his previous researches related to studying antibacterial peptides.

g.ozhegov@amsterdamumc.nl 

Project Manager

Willemijn Stoker

Willemijn studied Business Administration and HRM at the Rijksuniversiteit Groningen. After graduating, she spend some years working as a location manager of a tutor institute. However, she wanted to do something more meaningful for society. Therefore, she started working at the 100-plus Study. She is really excited to work with this special group of centenarians and to see what further insights this research will bring us. 

w.l.m.stoker@amsterdamumc.nl 

Sponsored by Hans und Ilse Breuer-Stiftung.

External collaborators and co-supervisors

Neuropathology

Amsterdam UMC: Department of Pathology.

Neuropsychology

VU University: Faculty of Behavioural and Movement Sciences, Clinical Neuropsycholgy. 

VU

Amsterdam Neuroscience, Alzheimer Center Amsterdam

Amsterdam Neuroscience, Alzheimer Center Amsterdam

Amsterdam Neuroscience, Alzheimer Center Amsterdam

Neuroimmunology

Amsterdam Neuroscience, MS Center Amsterdam

Brain proteomics

VU University: Center for Neurogenomics and Cognitive Research.

VU

Bioinformatics

TU Delft: Bioinformatics lab.

TUDelft

Evolutionary Neurogenomics

University of Amsterdam, Frank Jacobs lab.

UVA