Autoimmunity and chronic inflammation

This research program focuses on the  immune response against our body’s own molecules. In Immunology we perform fundamental research to gain insight into the mechanisms that underlie the loss of tolerance and the consequent chronic tissue damage. This line of research impacts on the translational projects of the department that involve cancer immunotherapy, therapeutic vaccination , and immunotherapy for autoimmune diseases and chronic inflammation. Autoimmune disease models that are studied include Celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, Colitis, Rheumatoid Arthritis, and Systemic Lupus Erythematosus.

            In the mapping of the cellular immune response in autoimmunity and chronic inflammation, particular emphasis is placed on the identification of novel and unique cell populations and the characterisation of the function and antigen specificity of such populations.

            The analysis of the humoral immune response in autoimmunity focuses on the antibody responses against our body’s own proteins and their post-translational modifications and on complement activation. Emphasis is placed on the role of the complement system in the initiation of autoimmunity and on the development of therapeutic (auto) antibodies for treatment of autoimmunity and cancer. In addition, we also study antibody responses against platelets and red blood cells, using biochemical assays, cellular assays, and in vivo models.

            In addition to the adaptive immune response, we study the role of the innate immune system in sterile inflammatory responses against endogenous DNA and RNA molecules. The accidental activation of the innate immune system leads to autoinflammatory diseases, such as type I interferonopathies, and plays a role in autoimmune diseases and in the tumor microenvironment. In this line of research we focus on the identification of the molecular mechanisms that are involved in sterile inflammation and in defects in the innate immune system. We focus on the regulation of type I Interferon responses.

            In all research lines, our main goal is the identification of the molecular and cellular mechanisms that underlie various disease processes. In the long run, we anticipate that our research will contribute to improved and patient-tailored therapies for such diseases.

            In our research on autoimmunity and chronic inflammation, we employ various technological platforms, such as FACS, (Imaging) Mass Cytometry, proteomics, recombinant protein expression, complement assays, and CRISPR/Cas9 genetic screening. We collaborate with various teams within the IHB, but also with other LUMC departments, including Rheumatology, Gastrointestinal Diseases, Renal Diseases, Pathology, and Cell and Chemical Biology.