Ashraf Al-Amoudi

Current Project

We are currently working on investigating the neurodegeneration inclusions in postmortem human tissues from Parkinson’s patients using correlative light and electron microscopy and tomography.

Research

Many neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s occur in elderly (above 50 years) resulting in progressive degeneration and/or death of neuron cells. Aging is the major risk factor of neurodegenerative diseases and there are currently no available medications that prevent or reverse the neurodegeneration that causes these diseases. As research progresses, many similarities appear that relate these diseases to one another on subcellular level. Discovering these similarities offers hope for therapeutic advances that could ameliorate many diseases simultaneously. The different neurodegenerative disorders are characterized on light and electron microscopic levels as intracellular aggregates such as Lewy bodies (LBs) and neurofibrillary tangles (NFTs) or extracellular deposits such as amyloid plaques. The main component of LBs is believed to be conformationally modified alpha synuclein which also found in other neurodegenerative diseases known as synucleinopathies and NFTs are aggregation of hyperphosporylated tau proteins that are most commonly known as a primary marker of Alzheimer’s and present in numerous other diseases known as tauopathies. Despite the extensive research on neurodegeneration over decades, determining whether these inclusions are the cause or they are simply produced as a natural cytoprotective reaction of the brain to prevent further damage remains elusive. 

 

The analysis of neurodegenerative aggregates on ultrastructural level will give important insight on their constituents and the possible pathways leading to the neuronal death. To that end, we employ a variety of advanced biophysical and imaging techniques including correlative light and electron microscopy and tomography, CEMOVIS, FIB/SBF/SEM, high-pressure freezing and freeze-substitution and immunogold labeling. These techniques are applied on postmortem human brain tissues. 

 

Biography

Ashraf Al-Amoudi is a Palestinian/German biophysicist and biological electron microscopist. He studied physics at the University of Birzeit in West Bank, Palestine and completed his dissertation in 2004 at the University of Lausanne (supervisor, Dr. Jacques Dubochet). During his PhD work, he developed and applied cryo-electron microscopy of vitreous sections (CEMOVIS) to various biological tissues and cells in situ. In 2005, he moved to EMBL (Heidelberg) and worked as a postdoctoral fellow in the group of Dr. Achilleas Frangakis, where he studied the molecular structure of intercellular adhesion junctions using cryo-electron tomography of vitreous sections. In 2010, he moved to Bonn to lead a team at German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases (DZNE) and caesar in cryo-electron microscopy and tomography of synapses. Starting from January 2018, he works at C-CINA as a senior scientist on cryo-EM/ET of neurodegeneration.