Dr. De Graaf studied chemistry with a master in Biochemistry at Utrecht University (UU). Her PhD was performed at the faculty of biology (UU) in the laboratory of Prof. Arie Verkleij and Dr. Paul van Bergen en Henegouwen on lipid kinases. After a short postdoc in the LUMC Leiden on p53 and Mdm2 interactions under supervision of Dr. A.J. Jochemsen, she returned to Utrecht for an extended postdoc in the lab of Prof. Marc Timmers. Here she introduced microscopy as a tool to study basic transcription regulation. Since 4 years she works in the department of Urology.
Our research goal is generating a tissue engineered (TE) source of urethra tissue for use in urethral reconstruction. Ideally, a TE urethra mimics the native urethra, consists of multiple cell layers of different origin, protects the underlying tissue as an efficient barrier from urine, is vascularized and resistant to mechanical forces during surgery. As in many patients undergoing urethral reconstruction surgery, the surrounding corpus spongiosum is either absent (in hypospadias patients) or affected by fibrosis, we aim to integrate the corpus spongiosum in our TE graft, providing the natural vascular environment. Currently we collaborate with different groups within the RMCU to generate a multilayered construct of hydrogel encapsulated with cells that will form either a vascular network or a smooth muscle layer. This concept can be translated to other fields of soft tissue engineering of tubular structures.
The molecular background helps to bring the science to life: I use my experience and knowledge acquired through the years towards solutions for health and disease.