Illuminating insights into our immune system
The immune system protects us from a host of threats, from harmful bacteria and viruses to cancer and other diseases. One way it does this is by learning and adapting to shield us from new dangers. Unfortunately, pathogens and malignant cells also devise ways to hide from the multitude of soldier-cells who fight to keep us healthy.
Understanding how the immune system works and revealing the ways it interacts with other vital processes is crucial for human health. At Van Andel Institute, we seek to solve big questions at the crossroads of immunology, epigenetics, metabolism and more. Among the questions our scientists seek to answer are:
- How does metabolism fuel the immune system?
- How does epigenetic programming affect immune cell function?
- How is metabolic programming interlinked to regulate immunity?
- How do changes in metabolism impact cancer’s ability to progress and spread?
- What role does inflammation play in depression and neurodegenerative diseases?
By the numbers
- 25,000 The number of white blood cells in a drop of blood*
- 1% White blood cells, which combat pathogens and abnormal cells, make up almost 1% of human blood**
- 5L The human body contains 5 liters of blood and lymph, a critical immune fluid*
VAI scientists who study immunology
Lena Brundin, M.D., Ph.D.
Professor, Department of Neurodegenerative Science
Brian Haab, Ph.D.
Professor, Department of Cell Biology; Assistant Dean, Van Andel Institute Graduate School
Connie Krawczyk, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, Department of Metabolism and Nutritional Programming
Immunology, Epigenetics and Metabolism
Russell Jones, Ph.D.
Chair and Professor, Department of Metabolism and Nutritional Programming
Cancer and Immunometabolism
Area of Expertise
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Van Andel Institute postdoctoral fellow Dr. McLane Watson awarded prestigious Damon Runyon Fellowship
*Healthline. 2016. Fun facts about the immune system. https://www.healthline.com/health/cold-flu/fun-facts
**Cleveland Clinic. 2021. Function of White Blood Cells. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/body/21871-white-blood-cells