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Immunology (BW)

Vak 2016-2017

Admission requirements

Basic knowledge on cellular processes and interactions.
Course is only open to students that follow the entire exchange module package.


This module focuses on the mechanisms of our immune system which ward off and eliminate microorganisms. A well-functioning immune system can even recognize and eliminate tumor cells. We will go into the basic principles of the development and organization of the immune system, the cellular and humoral interactions involved in immune responses, and the pathogenic effect of defects in the immune system and of autoimmune reactions. Current knowledge of cellular interactions has enabled the manipulation of the immune response; allergy patients can now be cured through desensitization therapy, and intervention strategies for the suppression of autoimmune reactivity and immune reaction to transplants are being applied. In addition to the well-known vaccinations against diseases, such as tetanus, diphtheria and whooping-cough, human immunity can be modulated by the infusion of hematopoietic cells that recognize microorganisms. Finally, strategies to boost stimulate anti-tumor responses will be discussed.

Course objectives

The student will be able to:
• describe the organization of the immune system and the development of immune functions during life in healthy individuals.
• explain the intercellular interactions and soluble factors that play a role in the mechanisms of immune reactivity against the various microorganisms.
• discuss why and how deficiencies, self-reactivity or hyper-reactivity of the immune system can cause distinct disease entities.
• discuss and critically review the strategies that can be applied to treat patients suffering from diseases with an immunological etiology.
• discuss and critically review how the immune system can be manipulated to fight infectious diseases and malignancies, and to prevent autoimmune manifestations.
• explain why transplantation of hematopoietic stem cells and solid organs is complicated by reactions of the immune system and how these reactions can be modulated.
• critically read selected scientific papers in the field of immunology.
• distinguish between claims made by the author, one’s own opinions and those of other authors.
• sufficiently write in English, in particular for building arguments, establishing and substantiating one’s own opinion.
• separate main- and secondary issues (by self-study assignments and questions) during the various workgroups.

Mode of instruction

Lectures, work groups, practicals, seminars, and presentations.

Assessment method

Written exam.
Exam dates can be found on: Onderwijsroosters.

Reading list

  • P. Parham. The Immune System.

Information for exchange students

This module is part of an English taught semester of the bachelor’s programme in Biomedical Sciences at Leiden University Medical Center. Combining biomedical modules with modules from other programmes in Leiden is difficult or impossible due to different scheduling schemes. Exchange students* with sufficient relevant background knowledge in biology/biomedicine are therefore encouraged and advised to choose the entire module package indicated below (September – end of December 2016).

  • Immunology (BW), 9 EC
  • Infectious Agents And Immunity, 6 EC
  • Physiology, Basic Concepts, 8 EC
  • Communication in Science for Exchange students, 2 EC
  • Biomedical Academic Scientific Training for Exchange Students, 3 ECTS
  • Applied Electrophysiology for Exchange students, 2 ECTS

*, the modules are obligatory for students from the Karolinska Institute that attend the curricular exchange programme