Transplantation and autoimmunity

The research within our LUMC departments is conducted within departmental research programmes. The research programme below is embedded within the department of Immunology.

  • Research programme: Transplantation and autoimmunity
  • Department: Immunology
  • Programme leader: Prof.Dr J.G. Borst
  • Principal investigators: Dr M. Eikmans, Prof.Dr F. Koning, Dr S. Heidt, Dr D. Roelen, Dr L. Trouw, Dr A. van der Veen

Aim and focus

The aim of the program is to prevent and modulate unwanted immune responses, specifically those that can lead to transplant rejection, autoimmunity or miscarriage. In rejection of transplanted solid organs of hematopoietic stem cells, the focus is on permitted mismatches of HLA molecules, which is studied primarily at the level of B cell responses. In the context of autoimmunity and inflammation, we focus on innate immune responses governed by complement and type I interferon and their interaction with adaptive immunity. Tolerance and immunity at the human fetal-maternal interface and in mucosal tissues is studied by deep phenotyping of the full range of immune cells in situ, combined with in vitro assays, in relation to clinical manifestations. Cellular and molecular mechanisms that lead to these unwanted immune reactions are defined with the goal to use this knowledge for the development of preventive and curative protocols.

Position in international context

The department houses an internationally renowned diagnostic laboratory for transplantation immunology, which is  the reference laboratory of Eurotransplant. Drs. Heidt and Roelen play key roles at national and international level in  in the field of Immunogenetics, Histocompatibility and Transplantation. Prof. Koning is a pioneer in multiparametric and -dimensional analysis of in vivo immune responses by mass cytometry and Dr. Trouw is an authority in the complement field. Dr. van der Veen is an accomplished tenure track assistant professor with a broad international experience.

Content / highlights / achievements

Research on the differential immunogenicity of HLA mismatches has broadened the opportunity to transplant patients with partially mismatched tissues. Research on the immune cell composition at the human fetal-maternal interface throughout pregnancy is expected to provide new insights into the development and breaking of immunological tolerance. Likewise, deep phenotyping of immune cells, particularly in the tissue context, in a variety of disease situations is leading to increased insight into the cellular and molecular players in tolerance and immunity. This work has led to multiple high impact publications and connects the department to the clinic in multiple ways. The Trouw group is recovering and engineering antibodies made in autoimmune patients to modulate complement function, which is an innovative and very compelling research line towards new drug development. The new line brought in by Dr. Van der Veen is deepening our research into innate immunity, also at the molecular level.

Future themes

The lines of investigation sketched in the previous sections will be pursued. Due to a reorganization, research into diabetes is no longer housed in the department.

Cohesion within LUMC

There is close collaboration with other research and clinical departments  (haematology, nephrology, obstetrics, rheumatology, pathology, endocrinology, paediatrics, gastroenterology, various surgical departments) and related to clinical transplantation with Matchis (hematopoietic stem cell) and Eurotransplant (organ).