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Researchers at the Eindhoven University of Technology and Radboud University Nijmegen have developed a laboratory device to speed up research into immune cells. This will enable them, for example, to develop better cancer vaccines in the future. The results of the research were published last week in Nature Communications.

The research team developed a technology platform that makes it possible to stimulate and study thousands of immune cells simultaneously yet individually. The platform creates identical droplets for this purpose, each containing a single cell. “This research, which is highly interdisciplinary in nature, brings together technical development and immunology and enables pioneering findings to be drawn up”, according to Jurjen Tel, who conducted the investigation. This can be used to determine, among other things, the optimal composition of a vaccine for cancer and infectious diseases and the optimal activation of the immune cells.

These types of immune cells, also known as Plasmacytoid dendritic cells or pDCs, help the immune system to identify and combat invaders and cancer cells. Also, the pDCs produce a protein that is essential in the immunity to pathogens and cancer. The researchers have now shown that the production of that protein is arbitrarily regulated by a tiny group of cells, which are responsible for regulating systemic responses.

The research was led by university lecturer Biomedical Technology Jurjen Tel, who leads the Immunoengineering group at the TU Eindhoven, in collaboration with Professor Carl Figdor and Professor Wilhelm Huck, both of whom are affiliated with Radboud University Nijmegen. Tel recently received a grant of 1.8 million euros, to use this platform and the Immunoengineering group to dissect complex immunological reactions and to understand the role of the immune cells better.

Photo: Jurjen Tel