Stem cell biology / Regenerative medicine

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

Aim and focus

This hematopoietic stem cell program is aimed at understanding mechanisms of self-renewal, multi-lineage differentiation and mobilization of immune cells. A fundamental research aim is to learn how to boost T cell development in the elderly. A second aim is to correct genetic deficiencies in T- and B cell development. In addition, we examine development of the myeloid lineage, specifically dendritic cell types. Immune monitoring combines expertise in immunology with cutting edge technology (particularly flow cytometry) to study the immune system in health and disease. With such multiparametric analysis, immune system development and responsiveness induced by infection, vaccination, or transplantation can be studied. A major aim is to develop and validate an immune monitoring program for diagnosis, prognosis and monitoring of therapies for a range of diseases, including immunodeficiencies, auto-immune diseases, leukemias & lymphomas, and solid tumors.

Position in international context

The research in hematopoiesis within the department of Immunology is one of the cutting-edge topics for translational applications combining several strengths of the LUMC. Several large-scale collaborative grants have been obtained, funded by national as well as international programs. Strong international collaborations exist with centers in Europe and the US. This relates not only to research but also the clinical application of diagnostics and stem cell- based gene therapy.

Content / highlights / achievements

  • The gene therapy program has obtained regulatory approval in the area of immune deficiencies in children, in particular for RAG1-SCID (Severe Combined Immune Deficiency). This is supported by a large ZonMW (3.1 M euros) and a large  EU H2020 grant (6 M euros) on RAG1 SCID coordinated by Prof Staal.
  • Prof JJM van Dongen develops within the IMI-PERISCOPE project a platform for monitoring the immune response to Bordetella pertussis infection and vaccination. His ERC Advanced TiMaScan project develops flow cytometric scanning of circulating tissue macrophages to detect disease status.
  • Professor Van Dongen has obtained Strategic Funds to develop Medical Immunology, with a harmonized Platform for Immune Monitoring, accessible to all clinical departments in the LUMC.
  • Van Dongen and Staal have established and are supervising the Flow cytometry Core Facility (FCF), which serves all flow and mass cytometry users in LUMC.

Future themes

With the reorganization of hematological activities to the department of Hematology, Regenerative Medicine will be focused exclusively on gene therapy for immunodeficiencies. Research will be focused on development of T lymphocytes and dendritic cells. The immune monitoring platform will be applied in these and other programs for basic, translational and clinical research, as well as in new clinical diagnostics.

Cohesion within LUMC

Gene therapy activities within the LUMC ranging from fundamental vector design to clinical application are performed in collaboration between groups Staal (IMMU), Lankester (KJC) and Hoeben (CCB). This consortium aims at collaboration, visibility within and outside the LUMC, coordinating Medical Delta activities in the realm of gene therapy and joint funding applications.
The flow cytometry-based immunodiagnostics and the innovations in this area connects dozens of departments in the LUMC that study immune system function in health and disease, at fundamental or clinical level.