In the gluten-induced enteropathy celiac disease, the main genetic and environmental risk factors are identified. Extensive knowledge on the intestinal adaptive immune response and development of reagents (MCH class II tetramers, labelled B-cell antigen) allows the specific labelling and analysis of disease relevant effector cells. These assets enable us to study disease-relevant cells, both at population and single cell level. The ability to study immune cells over time in response to controlled antigenic exposure (gluten challenge) give us insight into how and why chronic (auto-)immunity may develop in celiac disease and possibly also other MCH class II restricted autoimmune diseases.
Our group, at the Institute of Immunology (IMMI), is striving to understand what happens when the body's defence from disease, the immune system, directly or indirectly causes harm to the body. Coeliac disease, rhematoid arthritis, type 1 (insulin-dependent) diabetes, and multiple sclerosis are examples of autoimmune disorders of a chronic inflammatory nature.
People with coeliac disease get sick when they eat bread or other gluten containing food. We are concentrating on coeliac disease as a model to understand the molecular mechanisms leading to chronic inflammatory disease. In particular, we focus on how certain variants of HLA molecules predispose to disease development. We are working in the fields of cell biology, genetics, biochemistry and protein chemistry. We are interested in the relationship between environmental factors (including gluten) and inherited (genetic) factors. As our research has lead to a better understanding of the molecular basis of coeliac disease, we are approaching other immune mediated diseases with some of the same tools that we use to explore coeliac disease. Rheumatoid arthritis has therefore become another focus for our research. The group is participating in EU and nationally funded projects.