Joost J.F.M. Smolders, MD, PhD

Head of MS Center ErasMS
Neuroimmunology Brain (NIB) Research Group

Neuroimmunology Brain (NIB) Research Group

Our research group investigates how aberrancies in the adaptive immune system contribute to multiple sclerosis (MS). A major focus are CD4- and CD8-positive T cells, and B cells in the context of anti-viral responses.  We aim to understand how these cells are involved in the disease process of MS, and whether knowledge about their functional programs can be used to identify biomarkers for severity and treatment response and targets for the design of new therapeutic strategies in MS. The latter includes fundamental and translational studies on steroids as vitamin D and corticosteroids.

As main approach, we study lymphocytes isolated from blood, cerebrospinal fluid and brain tissue of people with MS. Participants to our studies have their MS history and genetic risk profiles extensively characterized. We compare phenotype and functional characteristics of people with a first demyelinating event and a high- vs. low-risk of conversion to MS, and of people with a poor vs good response to MS disease modifying therapies. Our core technical modalities include advanced in vitro differentiation and transmigration assays, gene expression and knockdown systems and 14-color based flow cytometry.

We are often looking for new talent. Please contact us when you are searching for an internship (MSc. or BSc.) or job position.

Group members

  • Joost Smolders, MD, PhD, neurologist, group leader
  • Marvin van Luijn, PhD, postdoctoral fellow
  • Jamie van Langelaar, PhD student
  • Liza Rijvers, PhD student
  • Steven Koetzier, PhD student
  • Malou Janssen, PhD student
  • Annet Wierenga-Wolf, Research assistant
  • Marie-José Melief, Research assistant

Selected Publications

  • van Langelaar J, Rijvers L, Janssen M, Wierenga-Wolf AF, Melief MJ, Siepman TA, de Vries HE, Unger PA, van Ham SM, Hintzen RQ, van Luijn MM. Induction of brain-infiltrating T-bet-expressing B cells in multiple sclerosis. Ann Neurol. 2019 Aug;86(2):264-278. doi: 10.1002/ana.25508. Epub 2019 Jun 19.
  • Rijvers L, Melief MJ, van der Vuurst de Vries RM, Stéphant M, van Langelaar J, Wierenga-Wolf AF, Hogervorst JM, Geurts-Moespot AJ, Sweep FCGJ, Hintzen RQ, van Luijn MM. The macrophage migration inhibitory factor pathway in human B cells is tightly controlled and dysregulated in multiple sclerosis. Eur J Immunol. 2018 Nov;48(11):1861-1871. doi: 10.1002/eji.201847623. Epub 2018 Sep 25
  • Smolders J, Heutinck KM, Fransen NL, Remmerswaal EBM, Hombrink P, Ten Berge IJM, van Lier RAW, Huitinga I, Hamann J. Tissue-resident memory T cells populate the human brain. Nat Commun. 2018 Nov 2;9(1):4593. doi: 10.1038/s41467-018-07053-9.
  • van Langelaar J, van der Vuurst de Vries RM, Janssen M, Wierenga-Wolf AF, Spilt IM, Siepman TA, Dankers W, Verjans GMGM, de Vries HE, Lubberts E, Hintzen RQ, van Luijn MM. T helper 17.1 cells associate with multiple sclerosis disease activity: perspectives for early intervention. Brain. 2018 May 1;141(5):1334-1349. doi: 10.1093/brain/awy069.
  • van Nierop GP, van Luijn MM, Michels SS, Melief MJ, Janssen M, Langerak AW, Ouwendijk WJD, Hintzen RQ, Verjans GMGM. Phenotypic and functional characterization of T cells in white matter lesions of multiple sclerosis patients. Acta Neuropathol. 2017 Sep;134(3):383-401. doi: 10.1007/s00401-017-1744-4. Epub 2017 Jun 17.
  • van Luijn MM, Kreft KL, Jongsma ML, Mes SW, Wierenga-Wolf AF, van Meurs M, Melief MJ, der Kant Rv, Janssen L, Janssen H, Tan R, Priatel JJ, Neefjes J, Laman JD, Hintzen RQ. Multiple sclerosis-associated CLEC16A controls HLA class II expression via late endosome biogenesis. Brain. 2015 Jun;138(Pt 6):1531-47. doi: 10.1093/brain/awv080. Epub 2015 Mar 29.
  • Smolders J, Remmerswaal EB, Schuurman KG, Melief J, van Eden CG, van Lier RA, Huitinga I, Hamann J. Characteristics of differentiated CD8(+) and CD4 (+) T cells present in the human brain. Acta Neuropathol. 2013 Oct;126(4):525-35. doi: 10.1007/s00401-013-1155-0. Epub 2013 Jul 24.
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