The immune system plays a central role in the progression and control of many diseases. The immune system can prevent or limit pathogen infection and can help to replace dysfunctional or damaged tissue. However it can also work in ways that do not benefit the individual; for example in the case of transplant rejection or auto-immune diseases.
The LUMC has a longstanding tradition performing research into the role of the immune system in infectious diseases and transplantation as well as auto-immune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis and asthma. Notably, Professor Jon van Rood discovered in the 1950's the Human Leukocyte Antigen system (HLA) that plays a key role in the immune response to diseases and revealing the crossroad between human leukocyte antigens and transplantation.
Focus on three major themes
Emerging and opportunistic infections
The research in this theme focuses on the treatment and prevention of infectious diseases. By unravelling the biology and evolution of pathogens and pathogen-host interactions, we aim to better understand the pathogenesis and epidemiology of infections caused by bacteria, viruses and parasites. This will aid to develop improved strategies to detect and combat such infectious diseases, in patients with either normal or disturbed immunity (like transplant recipients) and – in the case of emerging infections – potentially on a global scale.
Auto-immunity and chronic inflammation
Research within this theme includes investigations into how chronic inflammation develops and what sometimes causes the immune system to attack the body. Specific examples include rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, or aplastic anemia and an inappropriate or exaggerated immune response to allergens in the air, as is the case with asthma. Research within this theme tries to unravel how the immune system learns to react against or tolerate what it perceives as foreign, and how we can best steer the immune response in the right direction when it malfunctions.
Immunotherapy and vaccination
Research within this theme includes the development of vaccines against infectious diseases, including malaria and tuberculosis. Researchers also aim to uncover the reasons why some people often suffer infections – while others are rarely affected – and to develop strategies to strengthen the immune system by modulating their sensitivity to infection. In addition, studies are being performed on how the immune system can be manipulated and immune cell therapies can be developed to help patients with damaged immune cells or tissues.
Dutch science agenda
The medical research profile Immunity, Infection and Tolerance participates in the Nationale Wetenschapsagenda (in Dutch).
The focus of research in this area is on the regulation of immune cell function by direct control of its metabolic state through inflammatory mediators, signalling metabolites or through interactions with pathogen-derived molecules.
The focus of research in this area is on using chemical biology approaches to address specific immunological questions in relation to various themes, such as vaccine design, identification and generation of novel molecules with potent immune-modulatory properties or anti-bacterial/biofilm activity as well as post-translational modifications.
The different IIT research groups maintain collaborations with variety of diverse groups, both within the Netherlands and internationally within and outside Europe.
The LUMC research groups have excellent facilities and perform state-of-the-art science, all aimed at translating research findings into novel or improved therapies.The IIT researchers also have access to the unique biomedical imaging technologies facilities of the Research Profile Biomedical Imaging, and of the state-of-the-art facilities within the LUMC Technology Focus Areas Leiden Genome Technology Center and Center for Proteomics and Metabolomics for (high-throughput) genomics, transcriptomics, proteomics and metabolomics analyses).