Research conducted by the Laboratory of Nematology is part of the research program of the Graduate School Experimental Plant Sciences (EPS) and the C.T. de Wit Graduate School for Production Ecology & Resource Conservation (PE&RC).
Plants and Health
In industrialized countries the incidence of inflammatory diseases such as Crohns disease, multiple sclerosis, type II diabetes and allergies has risen to 35-40% of the population. People in these countries do not often experience infectious disease due to high hygiene, current vaccinations strategies and medical practices. As a consequence the immune system is insufficiently educated leading to abnormal responses. In our research group we focus on understanding and developing strategies to prevent or combat autoimmune diseases and allergies by (re-)educating the immune system. Our four main research lines are described below.
1. Lessons from parasitic worms. Parasitic worms are master manipulators of the immune system by secreting a variety of proteins. Our aim is to identify these proteins, assess their effect in reducing or steering inflammation and evaluate possibilities for clinical use.
2. Production of immunomodulatory proteins in plants. The plant is an excellent host for the expression of heterologous proteins. We therefore investigate the possibilities to express helminth-secreted proteins that modulate the immune system in tobacco plants. The aim is to use these potential therapeutic proteins to improve or modulate the functioning of our immune system.
3. Helminthisation of the N-glycosylation pathway in plants. Many helminth-secreted proteins are N-glycosylated and often carry typical N-glycan structures. These N-glycan structures have been shown to play an important role in protein activity. Therefore we investigate the possibilities to engineer the N-glycosylation pathway of plants in order to synthesize these helminth-like N-glycan structures. Also, we try to identify and characterise yet unknown helminth glycosyltransferases. Production of N-glycan variants of glycoproteins allows us to study the role of N-glycans types on protein function and interaction with immune cells. For more information on one of the proteins we are currently working on see http://help-t2d.nl.
4. The role of food on our immune system. You are what you eat! We have come to learn that this statement is true. Food determines to a great extent the functioning of the most important part of our immune system, the gut. We investigate the immunomodulatory effects of mushrooms and mushroom derived compounds. Mushrooms are non-pathogenic fungi that do not cause disease, but still elicit a response of our immune system. We investigate how mushrooms affect the immune system and how we may benefit from mushrooms as part of our diet.
- Kim van Noort
- Lotte Westerhof
- Ruud Wilbers