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Heleen Haspels

Background

As an Erasmus student from the Netherlands I’m working for 5 months in The Brain Tumor Immunology & Therapy group, at the University of Bergen. I am a 3rd – year bachelor student at the Institute for Life Sciences & Chemistry, Utrecht University of Applied Sciences (Hogeschool Utrecht) specialized in Biomolecular Research.

Project

The goal of this group is to understand how cells of the immune system interact with Glioblastoma (GBM), the most frequent malignant brain tumour in adults. A major goal of this 5 months internship is to gain technical, management and experimental skills for working independently in a laboratory. Additionally, I aim to advance my knowledge of immunology, specializing in Natural Killer (NK) cells of the innate lymphoid system. I will investigate the receptors that govern NK cell activation, killing of target cells and tolerance to self-cells. The most important receptors that NK cells use to recognize and kill target cells while sparing the normal healthy cells are the killer immunoglobulin like (KIR) receptors.

My project involves genotyping the human KIR genes from patients blood’ routinely archived into the Brain Tumour Biobank, purifying NK cells from peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) obtained from patients and healthy donors from the Norwegian population. I establish expansion cultures and investigate their killing efficiency against patient-derived GBM cells by using flow cytometry. Further studies utilize multipanel flow cytometry to phenotype the receptors expressed on the surface of NK cells and corresponding ligands on tumour cells. The ultimate purpose of my work is to elucidate the therapeutic potential of these immune cells and how they may be applied in novel combination immunotherapies against the devastating disease, GBM.