Mertens Lab

Neural Aging Laboratory

Institute of Molecular Biology

University of Innsbruck


Reprogramming of Human Skin into Brain Cells

to understand Age-Related Diseases

"We apply human reprogramming technologies  including directly induced neurons (iNs), induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs), and stem cell differentiation based on skin cells from Alzheimer patients and other age-related diseases, to develop the next generation of human disease models."

"By combining basic cellular neuroscience approaches with sequencing-based  big data biology, the  goal of our lab is to identify the molecular key players of human biological aging to enable the development of new treatment strategies for age-related neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer's Disease.“




Jerome is Assistant Professor at the University of Innsbruck in Tyrol, Austria, and Staff Scientist at the Salk Institute in La Jolla, CA. His research focus is to better understand the interface between the biology of aging and neurodegeneration. His patient-centric approach combines human cell reprogramming technologies such as iPSC differentiation, direct neuronal conversion (iN), and 3D culture models with unbiased multi-omics technologies and functional neuroscience. Jerome completed his PhD in the lab of Oliver Brüstle (University of Bonn) and Philipp Koch, and his postdoc in Rusty Gage’s lab.

Flo studies molecular biology at the University of Innsbruck and he is our lab manager. He is also a certified locksmith and police officer. After completion of his BSc, Flo is interested in specializing deeper into human biology, with a special interest in neuroscience. 

Larissa is the first PhD student that joined Jerome's lab, and her focus is on metabolic alterations in Alzheimer’s Disease. She received her BSc in Molecular Medicine from the Medical University of Innsbruck and her MSc in Biomedicine from Lund University in Sweden. She is currently a student enrolled with the SPIN doctoral school, actively collaborates with Angelo D'Alessandro's lab at UC Denver, and enjoys frequent research stays at the Salk Institute. In her free time, Larissa loves to spend her time outdoors in the mountains, going for hikes or paragliding, and enjoying a good beer.

Lena is a PhD student enrolled in the doctoral AGE_REG PhD program. Lena received her BSc in Molecular Medicine from the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg and her MSc in Molecular Sciences from the University of Lübeck in Germany. Before coming to Innsbruck, she joined Jerome for several research stays at the Salk Institute and worked at the drug discovery alliance and development partnership company Evotec.

Lucy earned her BSc in Health Biology and MSc in Biomedicine at Autónoma University Madrid. Her research in Madrid focussed on gene therapy using iPSC lung organoids, and iPSC modeling in Jun Yao's lab at Tsinghua University in Beijing. Lucy is interested in integrating fate reprogramming technologies with 3D cultures, and age-related diseases. She's always happy, smiley, loves socializing, and always open for any kind of group activities. 

 ♪♪ Dale a tu cuerpo alegría Macarena

Que tu cuerpo es pa' darle alegría why cosa buena

Dale a tu cuerpo alegría, Macarena

Hey Macarena!!!!! ♫♫

Joe is PhD student in the Neuroscience graduate program at UC San Diego and a joint member of Mertens lab and the Gage lab at the Salk Institute. Joe received his BSc from the University of Alabama in Huntsville and his MSc from the University of Kentucky. Joe's research focuses on the induction of neuronal senescence during aging and neurodegenerative disease. Outside of the lab, Joe enjoys hiking, fishing, rock climbing and any other excuse to spend time outdoors.

Dani is Research Assistant in the lab, with a distinct focus on everything ;) She likes tissue culture, and the FACS Melody is her best friend. She is also a skilled lentivirus and sequencing library producer, and supports the whole team. Dani received her BSc in Biology from the University of Innsbruck, and currently finishes her MSc in Ecology and Biodiversity at the University of Innsbruck with a focus on Limnology at Lake Mondsee. Besides her work as a lab technician, Dani enjoys time during mountain biking, paragliding ski touring and gardening. 

Lukas is enrolled in the MSc program Molecular Cell and Development Biology at the University of Innsbruck. He joined the lab out of his interest to learn more about cell reprogramming, disease modeling, and currently focuses on his bioinformatic skills and molecular neurobiology. During his thesis, Lukas is working with C. elegans and human iNs to better understand rates of biological aging, and to develop neuronal 3D culture systems to study neuronal de-differentiation. Lukas is supported by a Dr. Otto Seibert Fellowship for South Tyrolean students in Innsbruck.

Sophie did her BSc in Biology and is currently studying Molecular Cell and Developmental Biology at the University of Innsbruck. She is especially interested in neuroscience and aging. In her free time she enjoys horseback riding, reading and the occasional hike.

Alice is a BSc student in Innsbruck. She joined the lab just before the SARS-CoV-2 lockdown, so she is now learning busy with researching transcription factors, and learning ablut signaling pathways in cancer and neurodegeneration.

Flora is a BSc student who joined the lab just a few weeks before we had to close due to the SARS-CoV-2 lockdown. She currently enjoys our frequent virtual lab meetings, online seminars, and R courses, but she can't wait to get back to the lab and culture and reprogram neurons.



BSc student 2019-2020

->  Roche Diagnostics


BSc student 2019

->  Roche Diagnostics


Lab intern 2018-2019

-> MSc at Medical University Innsbruck



'When function follows form:  Nuclear compartment structure and the T epigenetic landscape of the aging neuron

J.C.M. Schlachetzki, T. Toda# and J. Mertens#.

Experimental Gerontology, Feb 2020

'Next‐generation disease modeling with direct conversion: a new path to old neurons’

L. Traxler, F. Edenhofer, and J. Mertens.

FEBS letters, Dec 2019

‘Take the shortcut–direct conversion of somatic cells into induced neural stem cells and their biomedical applications’

A. Erharter, S. Rizzi, J. Mertens, and F. Edenhofer.

FEBS letters, Dec 2019

‘Chemical modulation of transcriptionally enriched signaling pathways to optimize the conversion of fibroblasts into neurons’

J. R. Herdy,  S.T. Schafer, Y. Kim, Z. Ansari, D. Zangwill, M. Ku, A.C.M. Paquola, H. Lee, J. Mertens#, and F.H. Gage#.

eLife, May 2019

‘Human neurons to model aging: A dish best served old‘

L. Böhnke, L. Traxler, J. R. Herdy, and J. Mertens.

Drug Discovery Today: Disease Models, Feb 2019


‘Pathological priming causes developmental gene network heterochronicity in autistic subject-derived neurons‘

S.T. Schafer, A.C.M. Paquola, S. Stern, D. Gosselin, M. Ku, M. Pena, T.J.M.  Kuret, M. Liyanage, A.A. Mansour, B.N. Jaeger, M.C. Marchetto, C.K. Glass, J. Mertens, and F.H. Gage.

Nature Neuroscience, Jan 2019


‘Aging in a dish: iPSC-derived and directly induced neurons for studying brain aging and age-related neurodegenerative diseases'

J. Mertens, D. Reid, S. Lau, Y. Kim, and F. H. Gage.

Annual Reviews Genetics , Sep 2018


‘Mitochondrial aging defects emerge in directly reprogrammed human neurons due to their metabolic profile ‘

Y. Kim, X. Zheng, Z. Ansari, M.C. Bunnell, J.R. Herdy, L. Traxler, H. Lee, A.C.M. Paquola, C. Blithikioti, M. Ku, J.C.M. Schlachetzki, J. Winkler, F. Edenhofer, C.K. Glass, A.A. Paucar, B.N. Jaeger, S. Pham, L. Boyer, B.C. Campbell, T. Hunter, J. Mertens#, F.H. Gage#.

Cell Reports, May 2018


Technikerstr. 25

6020 Innsbruck

Tyrol, Austria

goldene Zelle mit Logoohne Hintergrund.p