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Immunology (BW)


Admission requirements

Basic knowledge on cellular processes and interactions.


This module focuses on the mechanisms of the human immune system which ward off and eliminate microorganisms. A well-functioning immune system can also recognise and kill tumor cells. We will go into the basic principles of the development and organization of the immune system, the cellular and humoral interactions involved in immune responses, and the pathogenic effect of defects in the immune system and of autoimmune reactions. Current knowledge of cellular interactions has enabled the manipulation of the immune response; allergy patients can now be cured through desensitization therapy, and intervention strategies for the suppression of autoimmune reactivity are being applied. In addition to the well-known vaccinations against diseases, such as tetanus, diphtheria and whooping-cough, human immunity can be modulated by the infusion of hematopoietic cells that recognise microorganisms. Finally, strategies to boost stimulate anti-tumor responses will be discussed.

Course objectives

The student will be able to:

  • describe the organization of the immune system and the development of immune functions in healthy individuals.

  • explain the cellular interactions and soluble factors that play a role in the immune response in the mechanisms of immune reactivity against microorganisms.

  • discuss why and how deficiencies, self-reactivity or hyper-reactivity of the immune system may lead to disease.

  • discuss and critically review the possible treatment strategies for patients suffering from immune diseases.

  • discuss and critically review how the immune system can be manipulated to fight infectious diseases and malignancies, and autoimmune reactions can be prevented.

  • explain why transplantation of hematopoietic cells and of complete organs is complicated by immune reactions, and how these reactions can be modulated.

Mode of instruction

Lectures, work groups, practicals, seminars, and presentations.

Assessment method

Written exam.

Reading list

  • P. Parham. The Immune System.

Information for exchange students

This module is part of an English taught semester of the bachelor’s programme in Biomedical Sciences at Leiden University Medical Center. Combining biomedical modules with modules from other programmes in Leiden is difficult or impossible due to different scheduling schemes. Exchange students with sufficient relevant background knowledge in biology/biomedicine are therefore encouraged and advised to choose the entire module package indicated below. This semester starts in week 36 and finishes at the end of week 3 of the following calendar year.

  • Immunology (BW), 8 EC

  • Pathogen-Host Interactions part 2, 3 EC

  • Infection and Immunity in Practice, 3 EC

  • Physiology, Basic Concepts, 8 EC

  • Physiology, Advanced Concepts, 3 EC

  • Communication in Science for Exchange students, 1 EC