Immunology Allergology Rheumatology

The Immunology – Allergology - Rheumatology department of Antwerp University Hospital is active in the research field, conducting research profjects in various fields amongst which:

  • Development and validation of diagnostics tools for allergy, in particular allergy to food, drugs and Hymenoptera venom.
  • Mechanisms of activation and inhibition of basophils and mast cells

More information on the various rheumatology activities will soon be available.

  • Development and validation of diagnostics tools for allergy, in particular allergy to food, drugs and Hymenoptera venom.

Allergies constitute an important health issue with significant morbidity, mortality and impact on the quality of life. Actually, allergy affects about 25% of the general population. 

Diagnosis of allergy generally rests upon history complemented with confirmatory testing such as skin tests and quantification of specific IgE antibodies in the serum of the patients. Unfortunately, it has repeatedly been demonstrated that correct diagnosis of allergy is not always straightforward. When overlooked, allergy can severely endanger the life of our patients. Alternatively, overdiagnosis can lead to unnecessary avoidance measures such as restrictive diets.

For over a decade the department of Immunology – Allergology – Rheumatology of the University Hospital Antwerp, in close collaboration with its research laboratory of Immunology at the University of Antwerp has focused on the development and validation of various in vitro tools to optimize diagnosis of allergy. This research is currently ongoing and has already lead to improved diagnosis of allergy to different foods (mostly fruit and vegetables), medicines (antibiotics, anti-inflammatory drugs, curarizing muscle relaxants), drugs (cannabis) and venom from wasps and honeybees. The applied techniques include: quantification of specific IgE, component resolved diagnosis (also by microarray), basophil activation tests and histamine release test (both by flow cytometry), skin tests and provocation tests.

  • Mechanisms of activation and inhibition of basophils and mast cells

Mast cells and basophils constitute the effector cells of IgE-mediated allergies. The mechanisms that govern activation of basophils and mast cells remain incompletely understood and subject of intense research. Our studies focus on the flow cytometric assessment of basophil and mast cell activation, inhibition and intracellular signaling. Particular interest is paid to the effect of therapy including allergen specific immunotherapy andf biologicals.  

Infrastructure

The outpatient’s clinic is fully equipped for skin testing and double blind placebo controlled provocations.

The laboratory of the University is equipped for quantification of IgE antibodies against traditional allergen extracts as well as purified and recombinant components. Microchip scanner is available. Furthermore, the laboratory is equipped with flow cytometers for basophil activation tests and cell based functional assays like HistaFlow®.

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