Radboudumc – Department of Experimental Internal Medicine

The department of Experimental Internal Medicine is led by Professor Mihai Netea who received the Spinoza proce 2016 for his groundbreaking discovery and research on ‘trained immunity’. For many years it was assumed that the immune memory is an exclusive characteristic of acquired immunity. However, research conducted by Mihai Netea has shown that this is not the case. The innate immune system also has a memory. This is something that he and his colleagues call ‘trained immunity’. This memory is the result of the DNA of the immune cells remaining in a state of high alert for several months following an infection. In this way, the innate immune system responds more quickly to a new infection.

The discovery that the innate immune system has a memory offers possibilities to train this memory. For example, the BCG vaccine against tuberculosis can stimulate this memory and also protect against other infections besides tuberculosis. This development offers promising possibilities for a new generation of vaccines. For example, this could be useful for new-borns, whose immune system is still developing, or for the elderly, whose acquired immunity is beginning to wear out. Switching on 'trained immunity' could also be used as a booster for other vaccines.
The concept of 'trained immunity' has already become a new paradigm in immunology with great importance for understanding diseases such as infectious diseases and arteriosclerosis. More importantly it will open up new avenues for developing new treatments for immune-related diseases in which inflammation plays a central role like auto-immuun diseases and cancer.
The department of Experimental Internal Medicine is embedded in the Radboud Institute for Molecular Life Sciences (RIMLS) in which research groups from the Radboudumc and the Faculty of Science of the Radboud University closely work together