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Understanding the immune system
The prevalence of inflammatory diseases like allergies and autoimmune diseases is increasing in the Western world. These diseases are often associated with a disturbed immune balance and a lack of immunological tolerance. Consequently, there is widespread interest in the discovery and development of safe treatments that can modulate immune disorders and compensate for the lack of tolerance. Understanding the immune system and selecting appropriate immune modulators is crucial for generating safe and effective therapeutic and preventive treatment strategies, which is the main objective of this project. Researchers developed new mechanics for tolerance induction that are valid for allergies as well as for auto-immune responses. Translating these results to clinical relevance is the next step of the project. The components that will eventually be identified might also be particularly interesting as adjuvants for vaccines.
Full project title: Immune modulation and tolerance induction, prevention and inhibition of inflammatory diseases
Start date: January 2008
End date: January 2012
Goal: Develop food concepts to modulate the immune system
Principal investigator: Léon Knippels
Project size: 27 FTE’s
Background: Inflammatory Disease
Partners: Danone Research, IQ Corporation, Pepscan Presto BV, University Medical Center Utrecht, Utrecht University, Vaxinostics, VU University Medical Center Amsterdam
An inflammation reaction is an attempt of the body to remove harmful stimuli such as damaged cells, irritants, viruses, bacteria or infectious agents. It should not be confused with infection, because an infection is caused by an external infectious agent whereas inflammation is the reaction against such agents. The symptoms of inflammation include redness, swelling, pain, fever, chills and fatigue. During an inflammation reaction, white blood cells are sent to the irritated areas in order to cleanse. Chemicals from the white blood cells are released to increase the blood flow, and thus these white blood cells, to the area. This blood flow results in the redness and warmth of the affected area. The inflammation can affect tissue, joints, but also organs. Diseases associated with inflammation are for example rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, but also auto immune diseases. In this latter disease the body is triggered to use inflammation to attack foreign ‘intruders’ while in fact there are none. An overactive immune system thus causes the body to attack its own cells. Rheumatoid arthritis is the most common form of inflammatory disease, with 150.00 patients in the Netherlands in 2003 and inflammatory bowel disease makes a good second with approximately 35.000 patients.
Bastiaan Schouten (project T1-214)
Cow's milk allergy
Ellen Wehrens (project T1-214)
Vive La Résistance!? - How T cells escape regulation in autoimmune inflammation
Sander de Kivit (project T1-214)
Restoring mucosal tolerance by non-digestible oligosaccharides under inflammatory conditions