The complexity of the immune system, and its many layers of defence and regulatory mechanisms, is a subject I find extremely fascinating.

Over the last couple of years I have been studying the role of dendritic cells (DCs) in the context of chemical-treated keratinocytes. Keratinocytes are the outermost line of defence in the skin and will be the first cells to encounter environmental influences or pathogenic infections.

Continued contact with chemical sensitisers can cause Allergic Contact Dermatitis (ACD), a very common occupational skin disease. High concentrations of such chemical sensitisers can lead to aberrant cell death in the epidermis potentially killing other antigen-presenting cells, such as Langerhans cells. We found that monocyte-derived DCs are able to detect signals from dying keratinocytes and show a mature phenotype as a consequence. This might be an important mechanism in the skin, by which DCs inform the rest of the immune system of a breach in the skin’s protective barrier and a therefore higher risk of infection.

Lately, we have become interested in studying the T cell repertoire using next generation high-throughput sequencing. I would like to use this method to study how the T cell repertoire changes in people suffering from ACD.

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