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Cutting edge Immunology: from Chemistry to Metabolism



October 23 - November 17, 2017.

Admission requirements

  • Basic understanding of Immunology, Pathogen Host interactions and Cell Biochemistry. Successful completion of How To Write a Research Proposal is strongly recommended. Students should be available for all days during this 4-weeks course.


The student will obtain a broader and deeper insight into:

  • the interactions between immune cells and metabolic cells (e.g. various fat cells and microbiota)

  • the role played by these interactions in the regulation of whole-body metabolic homeostasis

  • the metabolic reactions within immune cells involved in the control of their functional activities

  • the chemical tools available for immunological research and some of their applications

  • the current challenges in immunology and immunometabolism

The student needs to be able to:

  • formulate hypotheses regarding current challenges in immunology and immunometabolism, and also prepare an essay including a (small) experimental design to address such a hypothesis using the (chemical) tools presented during the course.

  • assess targets for therapy of infectious and immunological diseases using their knowledge of the immune systems and the metabolism of host cells and microbes


The main theme of this advanced course is to get insight into the newest developments in immunology, notably by getting acquainted with the novel fields of immunometabolism and chemical immunology. The main goals of the course include a detailed understanding of the complex interactions between metabolically highly active cell types (such as fat cells and microbes) and immune (effector) cells, as well as the understanding of available cutting-edge chemical tools that can be used for the study of immunological processes. Furthermore, this course focuses on the metabolic pathways within immune cells and their relation to immune functions. This course will provide detailed insights into the latest developments in fundamental biological research aiming at understanding the complex interactions between metabolic and immune cells as well as into advanced immunological techniques and some aspects of today’s clinical practice. It is expected that further development of these novel fields of research will lead to better insights and new therapies against infectious and immune-mediated diseases.


Week 1:
An introduction into 1) the basic concepts of the bi-directional interactions between immune cells and metabolically highly active cells, the microbiome, as well as their metabolites, 2) the metabolic activities of immune cells, and 3) an introduction on chemical tools that can be used for immunological research, including lectures, interactive tutorials, and literature presentations and discussions by students.

Week 2 and 3:
In-lab trainings. In the second week students will choose between research projects offered in the various departments involved in the course. During these two weeks the students will closely collaborate with PhD students involved in the research chosen by the student. This intensive in-lab training period consists of both theoretical and practical work and is mainly aimed at providing the practical skills necessary to conduct a short research project in the fields of immunometabolism or chemical immunology. This training period will end with a symposium in which all student groups will present their results to tutors and their fellow students.

Week 4
A self-study assignment will take place during the last week of the course, under supervision of a tutor. The students will integrate the theoretical and practical knowledge acquired in the first weeks of the course into a research plan in which a hypothesis will be formulated and a research plan will be developed to address this hypothesis. A symposium will be held on the last day of the course, in which all students present their research plan. The written version of the research plan has to be handed in no later than the first Monday after the end of the course.


This course will train the students in particular in:
Research competences:
Assimilating and critically assessing knowledge reported in the scientific literature and in opinions from others, formulating and motivating one’s own opinions. In-lab training related to a research project, defining a research question, writing a research plan, analyzing data with tutors, choosing appropriate techniques, integrate different biomedical disciplines in the design of a research question, design methods, and implement these new research tools, formulate research questions of the future.

Professional competences:
Commitment, motivation and drive, collaborating with peers, respecting the rules of the group. Ability to multi-task (work at several assignments, different topics during the course). Writing reports and well-defined research plans.

Mode of instruction

Lectures, self-study, work groups, in-lab training, research assignment.
Pro-active behavior is expected from the student.

Assessment method

Written reports/research plan, oral presentations, student performance and involvement.

Recommended prior knowledge

  • Alberts B. et al, Molecular Biology of the Cell, 4th ed. 2002 New York: Garland. Chapter 15.

  • Parham P. The Immune System, recent edition, new York and London, Garland.

  • Swanson et al. Microbe, 2nd ed. Washingthon DC, ASM Press.