Human Immunology

It is a challenge to improve the understanding of concepts and general aspects of Cell Biology and Immunology in order to maintain overall health and well-being in animals and humans. For this it is necessary to increase our understanding of the (epi)genetic and immunological basis of immunoregulation and immunomodulation to provide resilience to exposure to environmental factors, including infections, stress-inducers and nutritional compounds.

To achieve these goals we analyze immunomodulatory compounds and factors, life-style and husbandry-associated strategies, and improved rational design of vaccines and supporting compounds, like adjuvants. My special research interests are linked to basic aspects of antibody formation and regulation by helper T cell subsets and the cytokine profiles they produce.

Prevention of food allergy

Allergic diseases, including food allergies, but also celiac disease, are rising all over Western Europe, with a doubling of allergies over the last 25 years. Many Europeans suffer already from allergic symptoms with great social-economical impact for the individual and the society. We don't know exactly why this happens. It is associated with our western life style, as also in former eastern European countries adopting a more western life style, allergies are on the rise. The hygiene hypothesis is an attractive, but not proven, link between a rapidly deepening knowledge on the immunopathological basis of allergy, and environmental exposure to infectious organisms. The hypothesis is suggested to explain the observed increase in allergic diseases and setting the stage for experimental immunotherapies for allergy.

Immunomodulation by food and feed

This research line builds on experience from the food allergy research conducted at CBI and is particularly focussed on the health promoting activity of plant- and mushroom-derived compounds by modulating the activity of the immune system. In vitro analysis relies on using human immune cells from blood and models of gut-associated immune cells. This research line is further supported by the activities of prof.dr.Harry Wichers, a biochemist-immunologist who is appointed as part-time professor in “Immunomodulation by foods” at CBI.

The Allergy Consortium Wageningen (ACW)

The ACW expertise centre of WUR has started in 2003 with an innovative agronomic approach to the prevention for allergic diseases by incorporating a whole variety of research institutes and university chair groups. We focus on the nature and characteristics of the allergen using a food chain driven approach, combining beta-gamma-oriented research, and aiming at prevention. Rather than let the pharmaceutical industry attack the problem by approaching the allergy market with more functional foods and nutraceuticals, we start with the farmer by linking the existing knowledge on production of safe food with innovations on preventing food allergy. This is achieved by designing or selecting crops with low allergenic potential, design new methodology for food processing, and identifying allergy promoting components in the living environment. In addition better-defined health aspects and genetic and immunological risk assessment in individuals, social-economical aspects of allergies in consumers and households, and designing ways for communicating risks and disease management, are implicated.


Post Doc and PhD projects

  • Dr. R. Adriaansen-Tennekes: Immunomodulation by feed in layer hens.
  • Adriaan van Beek: The effect of ageing on the immune sampling capacity in the gut