N.N. van der Wel PhD

Assistant Professor, Support Staff
Main activities
Education, Research
Head Electron Microscopy Center Amsterdam
Focus of research

Focus of research
The research questions in the lab focuses on the understanding of Mycobacterium tuberculosis infections. This bacterium is responsible for one of the biggest killers causing the deadly disease tuberculosis. The vaccine currently used to prevent M.tuberculosis infections is M. bovis BCG. This live vaccine was developed almost 1 century ago and has not been improved ever since. We collaborate with several groups worldwide (Germany, France, Spain, Swiss, USA, South Africa) to improve this vaccine and understand the biology of tuberculosis infection. The subcellular localization of the pathogenic bacteria within cultured cells and in vivo is an important aspect (van der Wel et al., Cell 2007; Abdallah et al JI 2008; Abdallah et al., JI, 2011; Houben et al., Cell Microbiol. 2012; Weerdenburg et al., Cell Microbiol. 2012; Stoop et al; Cell Microbiol. 2013) and subject of our ongoing research. In addition, we discovered that the outermost layer of mycobacteria consists of a labile structure that contains several secreted products, involved in the immune responses of pathogenic bacteria (Sani et al 2010, Ates 2016). Currently we are investigating the mechanism of capsular stability and generation, as this is the first encounter of the vaccine BCG with the host. The projects serves both fundamental innovative research and has a clear application, in the vaccine manufacturing.

Electron Microscopy

At the Core facility Cellular Imaging, several different microscopy techniques are made available for the AMC-staff, and affiliated researchers ( Since March 2014 Dr. Nicole van der Wel was appointed head Electron Microscopy. With a group of 4 technicians (Daisy Picavet, Henk van der Veen, Anita Grootemaat and Edwin Scholl) we assist researchers from the AMC and partners with performing Electron Microscopy. We give advice on the techniques needed, support performing and interpretation of the experiments.

November 2015 we opened the Electron Microscopy Centre Amsterdam (EMCA The EMCA is a collaboration between several Amsterdam life science research institutes, including the Vumc, AMC, NKI, ACTA and NIN, and is housed at Core facility Cellular Imaging within the department of Cell Biology&Histology at the AMC. At the EMCA the operators and researchers from the different universities and institutes work on the various TEM and SEM microscopes and have shared work-discussions. The shared equipment is paid for by the involved partners as well as by various other academic and industrial users. As such we collaborate with most Amsterdam and various (inter)national research groups and have created an EM knowledge centre in Amsterdam. We have long standing expertise in transmission electron microscopy (TEM), scanning electron microscopy (SEM), but also apply new developments such as combined light electron microscopy (CLEM), tomography, immunoEM, and Cryo-EM.

Key publications
  • van der Wel Nicole, Hava David, Houben Diane, Fluitsma Donna, van Zon Maaike, Pierson Jason, Brenner Michael, Peters Peter J. M-tuberculosis and M-leprae translocate from the phagolysosome to the cytosol in myeloid cells Cell 2007;129 (7):1287-1298 [PubMed]
  • Sani Musa, Houben Edith N. G., Geurtsen Jeroen, Pierson Jason, de Punder Karin, van Zon Maaike, Wever Brigitte, Piersma Sander R., Jiménez Connie R., Daffé Mamadou, Appelmelk Ben J., Bitter Wilbert, van der Wel Nicole, Peters Peter J. Direct visualization by cryo-EM of the mycobacterial capsular layer: a labile structure containing ESX-1-secreted proteins PLoS pathogens 2010;6 (3):e1000794 [PubMed]
  • Ates Louis S., van der Woude Aniek D., Bestebroer Jovanka, van Stempvoort Gunny, Musters René J. P., Garcia-Vallejo Juan J., Picavet Daisy I., Weerd Robert van de, Maletta Massimiliano, Kuijl Coenraad P., van der Wel Nicole N., Bitter Wilbert The ESX-5 System of Pathogenic Mycobacteria Is Involved In Capsule Integrity and Virulence through Its Substrate PPE10 PLoS pathogens 2016;12 (6):e1005696 [PubMed]
  • Bedussi Beatrice, van der Wel Nicole N., de Vos Judith, van Veen Henk, Siebes Maria, VanBavel Ed, Bakker Erik N. T. P. Paravascular channels, cisterns, and the subarachnoid space in the rat brain: A single compartment with preferential pathways Journal of cerebral blood flow and metabolism 2017;37 (4):1374-1385 [PubMed]
All Publications
Research programmes


Current research funding
  • AMC
  • Birmingham Women's Hospital
  • Stichting Immuno Valley