Th2 and regulatory cells during helminth infections and their consequences
Maria Yazdanbakhsh (Leiden University Medical Center)
GIGA - B34, +5
Prof. Maria Yazdanbakhsh
Department of Parasitology, Leiden University Medical Center, Leiden, The Netherlands.
Through combining field studies in Africa/South East Asia with molecular immunological work in her laboratory in Leiden, Maria Yazdanbakhsh’s group has challenged the immunological basis of the Hygiene Hypothesis and introduced the concept that the regulatory network driven by chronic infections can play an important role to control inflammation underlying allergic disorders. Her seminal papers in the Lancet (Decreased atopy in children infected with Schistosoma haematobium: a role for parasite-induced interleukin-10 / Allergy, parasites and the hygiene hypothesis), showed that the negative association between helminth infections and allergies in Gabon is linked to regulatory cytokines. With increasing evidence of a beneficial effect of regulatory responses on insulin sensitivity, Maria Yazdanbakhsh has expanded her research to evaluate the role of helminths in the type 2 diabetes (T2D) epidemic in low to middle income countries (Helminth therapy or elimination: epidemiological, immunological, and clinical considerations / Helminth infections, type-2 immune response, and metabolic syndrome). From examining parasites and their products, the group has identified a number of parasite derived molecules with immune modulatory potential, which are being tested in animal models of asthma and T2D. These are new molecules that lead to exploitation of their chemical structure with the aim to define novel molecular entities capable of interacting with and modulating the immune system (Regulation of pathogenesis and immunity in helminth infections / Schistosome-derived omega-1 drives Th2 polarization by suppressing protein synthesis following internalization by the mannose receptor). The work in the laboratory has paved the way to randomised controlled trials in rural communities in Indonesia and Africa (Long-term treatment of intestinal helminths increases mite skin-test reactivity in Gabonese schoolchildren / Community deworming alleviates geohelminth-induced immune hyporesponsiveness). Through these well designed studies, some evidence has been produced for the ability of helminth infections to modulate the immune system and affect disease outcome.