Neuroimmunology in Health and Disease

Our main research focus is to understand how neurons and microglia interact with each other, and how malfunctions within this relationship impacts neuronal circuit formation and function in health and disease.

Microglia are commonly thought to be only involved in an active immune defense. However, recent studies have shown that microglia respond to their neuronal environment and influence synapse formation and maintenance. Moreover, genome-wide studies described several disease-associated genes, which have been related to microglial function. This raises the fascinating question how do microglia know when to alter neuronal circuit elements without inducing circuit malfunction.

To address this, we take advantage of the mammalian retina, which consists of morphologically well-defined cell types that are precisely mapped in their connection and functional properties. In the retina, microglia activation has been described in several inherited retinal degenerative diseases, however their role is unknown. To resolve our questions, we combine techniques from molecular biology, virology, genomics, (epi)genetics, computational, and multi-photon functional imaging. Moreover, we take advantage of reprogramming human induced pluripotent stem cells into three-dimensional retinal structures to study human-disease relevant aspects.

For up-to-date information about the group, please visit the Siegert group website.

For up-to-date information about the group leader, please visit the Orcid account or Siegert Group website.

Sandra Siegert
Institute of Science and Technology Austria (IST Austria)
Am Campus 1
A-3400 Klosterneuburg

Phone: +43-(0)2243 9000-3050

Rita Six

Phone: +43 (0)2243 9000-1165

Siegert Group website

Open Positions in Siegert Group
Siegert Group website

Selected Publications

  • Siegert S, Gross Scherf B, Del Punta K, Didkovsky N, Heintz N, Roska B, “Genetic address book for retinal cell types” , Nature Neuroscience 2009 Sep; 12(9): 1197-204, Nature neuroscience cover story
  • Siegert S, Cabuy E, Gross Scherf B, Kohler H, Panda S, Le, Y-Z, Fehling HJ, Gaidatzis D, Stadler M, Roska B, “Transcription factor code and disease map for retinal cell types”, Nature Neuroscience 2012 Jan; 15(3): 487-95
  • Siegert S, Seo J, Kwon EJ, Rudenko A, Cho S, Wang W, Flood Z, Martorell AJ, Ericsson M, Mungenast AE, Tsai L-H, “The schizophrenia risk gene miR-137 alters presynaptic plasticity”, Nature Neuroscience 2015 Jul; 18(7): 1008-16.

A full list can be found here Siegert Group website.


Since 2015 Assistant Professor, IST Austria, Klosterneuburg, Austria
2011 - 2015 Postdoctoral associate, MIT, The Picower Institute for Learning and Memory, Cambridge/MA, USA (with Li-Huei Tsai)
2005 - 2010 PhD student, Friedrich Miescher Institute for Biomedical Research, Basel, Switzerland (with Botond Roska)
2004 – 2005 Diplom student, Paul-Ehrlich Institute, Federal Institute for Vaccines and Biomedicines, Langen, Germany (with Barbara Schierle)
2000 – 2005 Undergraduate in Biology (main focus: microbiology, biochemistry, neurobiology), Johann Wolfgang Goethe-University, Frankfurt/Main, Germany

Selected Distinctions

2016    ERC Starting Grant
2013    SWISS OphthAWARD
2012    Human Frontier Science Program (HFSP) long-term fellowship
2011    Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO), long-term fellowship
2011    Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF), Fellowship for prospective researchers

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