Erasmus University Medical Center, Rotterdam, the Netherlands
Hemmo A. DREXHAGE MD PhD, is emeritus professor of Clinical Immunology, ErasmusMC, Rotterdam, the Netherlands.
Dr. Drexhage is still full-time active at the ErasmusMC in evaluating the data from 2 large scale EU funded projects “MOODINFLAME” and “PSYCH-AID”, which ran from 2008-2013 and 2012-2016 respectively. Besides that he coordinates a HORIZON 2020 project MOODSTRATIFICATION. These projects involve and involved 22 partner institutes in 11 European countries.
He also is a Senescyt fellow in Quito, Ecuador (“Prometeo”) to foster medical research on the metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes in Ecuador.
He has published over 450 research papers and trained over 40 PhD students.
His main research topics are in the field of immuno-neuro-endocrinology focusing on the role of the immune system in psychiatric, endocrine autoimmune (thyroid autoimmune disease and type 1 diabetes) and metabolic disease (type 2 diabetes and obesity).
His important contributions to medical science were his pioneering work in the 1970’s on the role of dendritic cells in immune reactions in general, his work in the 1980’s on thyroid blocking antibodies as the cause of hypothyroidism due to thyroid atrophy, and his work in the 1990’s on the initiating role of aberrant dendritic cells in the initiation of type 1 diabetes and autoimmune thyroid disease.
Since the 1990’s he has also extensively studied the role of immune dysregulation in causing psychiatric symptoms. Focus is in particular on the aberrant role of immune cells, in particular monocytes, macrophages, dendritic cells and T cells, since these cells classically are the cornerstone of the so-called type IV cell-mediated immune reactivity.
His latest concept (emerging from the evaluation of the MOODINFLAME/PSYCHAID data) is that a large proportion of psychiatric disorders (major depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia) find their basis in inborn T cell dysfunctions eliciting episodes of monocyte/macrophage inflammatory reactivity. These T cell dysfunctions are on the one hand early aging phenomena of T cells, on the other hand mild low output of T cells with reduced IL-7 levels. Both the T cell dysfunctions and the inflammatory reactions are capable of hampering the growth and development of important brain structures, such as the hippocampus and frontal brain regions, as well as the interconnectivity between these brain structures by compromising white matter integrity. The timing, degree and character of the dynamic worsening’s or corrections of the T cell dysfunctions and hyperactive inflammatory episodes during early life and aging (puberty and later) determine the development and character of the psychiatric disorder: major depression, bipolar disorder, postpartum psychosis, autism or schizophrenia.
The abnormal dynamic T cell and inflammatory set points most likely also determine the use and outcome of immune correcting therapies. The outcomes of intervention studies with various add-on immune correcting therapies (COX-2 inhibition, aspirin, anti-TNF, low dose IL-2, thymosin-α1, physical training) are subject of study in the EU funded HORIZON 2020 project MOODSTRATIFICATION, which will run till 2023. Prof Drexhage is the coordinator of this project which involves 11 partners from 7 EU or EU-related countries.