Surveillance of infectious diseases caused by viruses
Hepatitis B virus, Human and Avian Influenza Viruses, Measles, Rubella, Parvovirus, Newcastle Disease Virus, other avian viruses, tick-borne pathogens
The main purpose of these studies is to contribute to the understanding of the geographic distribution, genetic variants (including new variants and genotypes), the variability and the natural history of viruses.
Development of vaccination strategies
The experience acquired with the development of measles vaccine strategies has been further applied to explore immune-prophylactic strategies against carcinogens; the approach is based on innovative conjugate vaccines that induce antibodies to influence the pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic of carcinogens.
Immunology and the neuroendocrine system; Psychoendocrine immunology of stress
Aberrant glucocorticoid receptor levels are associated with stress-related disorders such as depression, and affect social behavior, mood, learning and memory. Dissecting how tissue-specific GR levels are regulated, in particular in the brain, is the first step towards understanding the mechanisms underlying aberrant GR levels in disease and altered behavior.
Current studies in proteomics include:
- Proteomics combined with bioinformatic pathway analysis identified IFN type I and type II signalling pathways as principal targets of immunomodulatory effects of cortisol on LPS-activated macrophages. New isoforms of cortisol-sensitive IFN-inducible proteins were found such as for MX1 and SYWC.
- Proteomic profiling of non-genomic effects of cortisol in a rat model for acute stress revealed new insights in the early stages of a stress response. Nuclear translocated proteins identified belong mainly to transcriptional control and mRNA splicing/processing suggesting the preparation of the cell for a forthcoming transcription.
- Proteomics is also applied to investigate host virus interactions of strain variants; virus induced post translational modifications.
Perinatal programming and epigenetics of the immune system
Perinatal programming refers to the concept that fetal or early postnatal environmental factors, such as nutrition, stress or infectious disease, have a considerable long-term impact on adult phenotype and disease susceptibility. Although initial studies focused on perinatal programming in cardiovascular or nervous systems, it has become clear that early environment may influence a large range of diseases and conditions, including disorders of the immune system. Recent evidence indicates that epigenetic mechanisms, such as methylation of CpG dinucleotides, are involved in the memorization of early-life events. We study the role of DNA methylation in immune cells and animal models, and identify genes responsible for early programming of the immune system.
Teaching and training
Our department offers a teaching and training programme
for PhD students, undergraduate students (e.g. master students) and visiting scientists.