Regulating the immune response to aggregated food proteins, a biophysical point-of-view


An estimated 3-4% of the children and 1-2% of adults in the industrialized world exert an allergenic response to one or more ingested food proteins while the underlying principles are largely unknown. Food preservation, such as pasteurization of milk, has been related to induction of allergenic response in the past, a process that has been found to trigger conversion of normally soluble proteins into an aggregated form. Aggregation of proteins has also been shown to initiate an inflammatory response in the brains of patients suffering from neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease. We hypothesize that aggregation of proteins in food products can act as regulators of the immune response.


You will study if and how protein aggregation is related to immune response. The proteins you will use originate from well-known potentially allergenic sources, such as milk, egg, and peanut. You will first optimize the conditions for aggregate formation for each of these proteins and then characterize the aggregates formed using biophysical and biochemical techniques based on fluorescence, spectroscopy, electrophoresis and atomic force microscopy. Your preparations will be used in a PCR assay at Wageningen University to establish the potential link between immunoresponse in monocyte and macrophage cell cultures and protein aggregation.

This project is suitable for both BSc as MSc students and, according to progress and interest, experimental work can be extended to include the effects of the food matrix on protein aggregation, including the presence of starch, phenols and lipids. It is also possible to be actively involved in the testing of immunoresponse of your preparations in the laboratory of our collaborator, prof. Harry Wichers, at the University of Wageningen.

If you want to combine (bio)physics, biochemistry, and medical sciences into one package, this project may be of interest to you.



Kerensa Broersen, PhD

Phone: +31 (0)534893655