NAD Fellow year: 2023

Jonas Laugård Hald

MSc in Medicine with an Industrial Specialisation, Aalborg University

PhD Project

Project title

When Inhibition Excites: Unraveling the Paradox of GABAA Subunit δ Gain-of-Function Epilepsy

PhD lab
Disease Stem Cells Models and Embryology Group, Department of Veterinary and Animal Sciences
University of Copenhagen
Main supervisor
Professor Kristine Freude
Professor Rikke Steensbjerre Møller, Department of Regional Health Research, IRS - The Epilepsy Hospital Filadelfia, University of Southern Denmark
Professor Jakob Balslev Sørensen, Department of Neuroscience, University of Copenhagen

Lab rotations - pre-PhD year

Lab Rotation 1

Disease Stem Cells Models and Embryology Group, Department of Veterinary and Animal Sciences, University of Copenhagen w/PI Professor Kristine Freude

During his rotation, Jonas will assist in the lab’s work on stem cell models of epilepsy.

Lab Rotation 2

Løland Lab, Department of Neuroscience, University of Copenhagen w/PI Professor Claus Løland

In the Løland Lab, Jonas will be working with the serotonin transporter and the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) vilazodone. He will mainly make use of molecular dynamics simulations to asses how vilazodone binds to the transporter, which will then be used in the lab to design mutations in sites of interest in the serotonin transporter. The mutated sites will result in different drug binding properties that can be assessed by radioligand binding assays. In that way, this setup can be used to measure the role of the mutated site in regard to binding of vilazodone and design of new SSRIs. Additionally, Jonas will be presented with the methods and principles of cryo electron microscopy.

Lab Rotation 3

Larsen Lab, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, University of Southern Denmark w/Professor Martin Røssel Larsen

The Larsen Lab is studying the early brain development in health and disease using multi-Omics and imaging. The lab has developed the 3D brain organoid technology, and they use this to study various aspects of neural development during the very early development of the brain. They have also developed very comprehensive mass-spectrometry-based methods to study alteration in protein expression and various post-translational modifications that control most cellular processes. During his rotation in the Larsen Lab, Jonas will learn our methods to characterize alteration of protein expression and S-palmitoylation of induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) that has been exposed to the Wnt signaling inhibitor IWP-2. The Wnt signaling pathway is very important during embryonic development as it regulate aspects of e.g., cell fate determination, cell migration and neurogenesis. Recent results in our group have shown that different iPSC lines are not behaving similarly when used for brain organoid generation, which could be related to differences in Wnt signaling.

Meet Jonas Laugård Hald

Jonas Laugård Hald obtained his MSc in Medicine with an Industrial Specialisation in Biomedicine from Aalborg University in 2020. Since then, he has worked as a research assistant, most recently at the Department of Neurology at Aalborg University Hospital.

Jonas is especially interested in research at the molecular level and understanding cellular mechanisms in the brain. Previously, he has done a lot of work on metabolism and epigenetics. Recently, his interests have shifted towards electrophysiology and epilepsy:

“[As a research assistant at the Department of Neurology], I worked with electrophysiology on brain cells. I grew brain cells on plates with electrodes on them and measured their signaling. Then, we tried out different medicaments on them, mostly antiepileptic drugs, and saw how they responded – how they signal to each other and whether they form any patterns. This can be done on regular neurons or on epilepsy models.”

One of the main reasons Jonas applied for an NAD fellowship is the lab rotations, which he considers a great opportunity for trying out new methods and seeing how research is conducted in different labs across Denmark:

“What attracts me the most is trying my hand at new things, both new laboratories and new methods, establishing a network and seeing what else there is out there that I have not experienced yet in regards to research.”

This open-mindedness is also characteristic for Jonas as a researcher:

“As is the case for many others, I am mostly driven by my curiosity – testing new methods and trying out things that have not been done before.”