I joined Marco Brancaccio’s group in April 2020 to work on astrocytes (a key non-neuronal cell type in mammalian brains) and how these influence the daily dynamics of brain function in the ageing brain. Astrocytes coordinate extracellular space as well as synapse changes at different times of the day, and my goal is to reveal the underlying molecular mechanisms. For this, my work involves molecular biology and high-resolution imaging approaches, with the aim to reveal differences in brain function a) over time and b) between normal brain cells and those that have been manipulated (e.g. by disrupting the molecular clock that underlies daily rhythms).
Before I joined the Brancaccio lab, I spent 2.5 years working as a medical writer and scientific editor – a career discourse that offered not just diverse medical topics from the scientific, healthcare, and patient perspective, but also a different take on project and people management. Prior to this, I worked at the University of Oxford for my first postdoctoral project (2016–2017) on 3D bioprinting neural stem cell tissue via a novel droplet printer, which is an ongoing project in the Bayley group in Oxford. For this work, I helped establish mouse and human stem cell-derived cultures and 3D-bioprinted tissues with the aim to provide new insights into cellular interactions between neurones and astrocytes during early development.
Between 2012 and 2015, I worked on vesicle-associated molecules in astrocytes as part of my PhD project in the Dean lab at the European Neuroscience Institute in Göttingen, Germany. I developed a new method for growing in vivo-like astrocytes in isolation, and using this method, found that some synaptotagmins (a family of vesicle-associated membrane proteins), which are traditionally studied in neurones, are also expressed as proteins in astrocytes. Importantly, when astrocytes lack synaptotagmin isoform 7, wild-type neurones feature 25% fewer synapses – suggesting that synaptotagmins may play a role in releasing unknown astrocytic factors that determine synapse number.
Before my PhD work, I obtained a Master’s degree in Developmental, Neural, and Behavioural Biology from the University of Göttingen in Germany (2012), and a Bachelor’s degree in Neuroscience from the University College London (2010). During this time, I also became a coffee connoisseur.
et al., 2020, Lipid‐bilayer‐supported 3D printing of human cerebral cortex cells reveals developmental interactions, Advanced Materials, Vol:32, ISSN:0935-9648
Wolfes AC, Dean C, 2020, The diversity of synaptotagmin isoforms, Current Opinion in Neurobiology, Vol:63, ISSN:0959-4388, Pages:198-209
Wolfes AC, Dean C, 2018, Culturing In vivo-like murine astrocytes using the fast, simple, and inexpensive AWESAM protocol, Journal of Visualized Experiments, Vol:131, ISSN:1940-087X, Pages:1-7
et al., 2017, A novel method for culturing stellate astrocytes reveals spatially distinct Ca2+ signaling and vesicle recycling in astrocytic processes, Journal of General Physiology, Vol:149, ISSN:0022-1295, Pages:149-170