Antibody mediated rejection is an important cause of long-term allograft failure in kidney transplantation and is associated with the generation of donor specific antibodies (DSAs). Moreover, Human Leucocyte Antigen (HLA)-immunized patients on the transplant waiting list have a significantly decreased chance of receiving a donor organ. In order to minimize the development of de novo DSAs, patients are matched based on HLA. However, HLA is extremely polymorphic, making the chance of receiving a fully matched transplant extremely slim. Interestingly, the differences between the thousands of HLA proteins can be explained by only a few hundred epitopes.
My research focuses on the generation of HLA class II-specific monoclonal antibodies in order to verify epitopes on HLA class II. Furthermore, I aim to translate basal knowledge about HLA epitopes to the clinic, by conducting cohort studies where epitope data is correlated with clinical outcomes in transplantation.
The eventual goal is to use this knowledge to match donor and recipient at an epitope level, instead of the antigen level. Moreover, epitope mismatch load could be used as an instrument to identify patients that could be safely treated with a lower dose of immunosuppressive drugs, which will decrease the risk of adverse effects such as infection and malignancy.
I started studying Medicine at Leiden University in 2013. During my studies, I developed a special interest in nephrology, immunology and transplantation. In 2016, I participated in the Leiden Oxford Transplantation Summer School. As a part of my Master’s degree, I have spent 6 months at the Nuffield Department of Surgical Sciences, University of Oxford, investigating squamous cell carcinoma in renal transplant patients. After my graduation as a Medical Doctor in October 2019, I started my PhD at the LUMC, in a collaboration between the Dept. of Immunology and the Dept. of Internal Medicine. My future ambition is to become an internist and to combine clinical work and research activities.