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You are here: FRIAS Fellows Fellows 2019/20 Dr. Tuan Leng Tay

Dr. Tuan Leng Tay

© Britt Schilling
University of Freiburg
Internal Junior Fellow
October 2019 - July 2020

Phone +49 (0) 761-203 8347
Fax +49 (0) 761-203 2550


How does the brain develop and maintain itself throughout our lifespan? What are the possibilities for recovery and regeneration after acute, traumatic injuries? Dr Tuan Leng Tay investigates the role of glia in brain development and repair using various approaches including high-resolution microscopy and single-cell next-generation sequencing. She obtained her Bachelor and Master degrees for Biotechnology and Biology at the National University of Singapore and performed her PhD (2005-2010) in developmental neurobiology using the zebrafish model with Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Driever. Her postdoctoral research at Columbia University in New York focused on the murine dopaminergic systems. From 2012-2018, she was an independent postdoctoral fellow at the University Medical Centre of Freiburg, where she focused on the brain immune cells, microglia, and their roles in restoring brain health. Since 2019 she is a Group Leader and also belongs to the Cluster of Excellence BrainLinks-BrainTools.

Dr Tay was supported by the German Research Foundation (DFG) and Ministry of Science, Research and the Arts (Baden-Württemberg). She received the prestigious Helmut-Holzer Research Prize (2018) and is a Fellow of the inaugural Klaus Tschira Boost Fund (2019-2021). Dr Tay teaches Developmental Neurobiology at the Faculty of Biology since April 2017. She guest lectures for "Gender Equality in STEM" at the Faculty of Engineering starting in May 2019.

Selected Publications

  • Costa Jordão MJ, Brendecke SM, Sankowski R, Sagar, Locatelli G, Tai Y-H, Tay TL, Schramm E, Armbruster S, Hagemeyer N, Mai D, Çiçek Ö, Falk T, Kerschensteiner M, Grün D, Prinz M (2019) Single-cell profiling of the myeloid compartment identifies new cell populations with distinct fates during neuroinflammation. Science, 363: eaat7554.
  • Falk T, Mai D, Bensch R, Çiçek Ö, Abdulkadir A, Marrakchi Y, Böhm A, Deubner J, Jäckel Z, Seiwald K, Dovzhenko A, Tietz O, Dal Bosco C, Walsh S, Saltukoglu D, Tay TL, Prinz M, Palme K, Simons M, Diester I, Brox T, Ronneberger O (2019) U-Net: deep learning for cell counting, detection, and morphometry. Nat Methods, 16: 67-70.
  • Shemer A#, Grozovski J#, Tay TL#, Tao J, Süß P, Volaski A, Gross M, Kim J-S, David E, Chappell-Maor L, Thielecke L, Glass CK, Cornils K, Prinz M, Jung S (2018) Engrafted parenchymal brain macrophages differ from host microglia in transcriptome, epigenome and responsiveness to challenge. Nat Commun, 9: 5206 (#shared first author)
  • Tay TL*#, Sagar#, Dautzenberg J, Grün D*, Prinz M* (2018) Unique microglia recovery population revealed by single-cell RNAseq following neurodegeneration. Acta Neuropathol Commun, 6: 87. (*corresponding author, #shared first author)
  • Tay TL*, Mai D, Dautzenberg J, Fernandez-Klett F, Lin G, Sagar, Datta M, Drougard A, Stempfl T, Ardura-Fabregat A, Staszewski O, Margineanu A, Sporbert A, Steinmetz L, Pospisilik JA, Jung S, Priller J, Grün D, Ronneberger O, Prinz M* (2017) A new fate mapping system reveals context-dependent random or clonal expansion of microglia. Nat Neurosci, 20(6): 793-803. (*corresponding author)

FRIAS Research Project

CellSign − an interactive meta-analysis web tool for contextual classification of cellular phenotypes based on gene expression

There has been tremendous progress in gene sequencing technologies for the study of cellular properties, organ formation and disease pathogenesis in recent years. However life science researchers are mostly focused on limited datasets restricted to their specialisations. Here I propose a meta-analysis framework to leverage information across vast gene expression datasets by noise reduction and transcript alignment. This strategy could improve experimental design, reveal consensus gene regulatory mechanisms of cellular processes, consolidate our knowledge on transcriptional changes, and unveil new targets for detailed mechanistic studies. My work in brain immune cells (microglia) have suggested rapid context-dependent changes in microglial subpopulations and unveiled disease-linked gene signature in several mouse models. In this project I want to identify core gene regulatory modules by comparing gene datasets of proliferative and plastic cell types, to uncover novel genes, motifs or physiological contexts that promote these cellular characteristics. As these cells exert positive (e.g., organ growth, recovery) or destructive outcomes in various circumstances, the results may contribute towards precision therapy for wound healing, chronic inflammation and cancer. "CellSign" will be an interactive website for motif or pathway analyses to allow diverse researchers to understand their genes, cells or datasets of interest from the fresh perspective of other specialties.