Virology and Innate Immunity
Pathogens (germs) infiltrate our bodies daily but do not remain undetected. They encounter the strong defenses of our immune system, which recognizes invaders and promptly takes appropriate measures. However, many pathogens can produce life-long infections even with an intact immune system. The herpesvirus family is one such group of pathogens. Upon infection, herpesviruses establish a chronic infection and become lifelong companions.
Over a million years herpesviruses have adapted perfectly to the immune system and efficiently outwit the body's defence. We want to decipher the mechanisms herpesviruses apply to escape their elimination.
Melanie Brinkmann studied biology at the Georg-August University Göttingen and the Humboldt University Berlin in Germany. During her PhD at the Institute of Virology, Hannover Medical School, Germany, she studied how the tumorvirus Kaposi sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV) manipulates its host. For her postdoctoral time she joined Hidde Ploeghs laboratory at the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research, which is affiliated with the Massachusettes Institute of Technology in Cambridge, USA. During these four years she worked on highly specialized sentinels of the innate immune system, so called pattern recognition receptors. These cellular receptors play an essential role for the detection of viral infections.
Since July 2010 Melanie Brinkmann is head of the research group “Virology and Innate Immunity” at the HZI.
She received the PhD Award of the Hannover Medical School (2004), for her postdoctoral work she received the Robert-Koch-Postdoc Award (2007), and in 2016 she was awarded with the Science Award of the Signal Transduction Society.
From 2012 to 2018, Melanie Brinkmann was assistant professor at the Institute of Virology at the Hannover Medical School. Since July 2018 she is professor at the Institute of Genetics at the Technische Universität Braunschweig.
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If we imagine viruses and human immune cells as opposing soccer teams, we would observe a spectacular game: The viruses have barely gained possession of the ball and they are already storming down the field towards their goal. If the defence players and goalie of the opposing team, the human immune cells, do not reach their positions quickly enough the viruses’ goal cannot be prevented and a human is infected.
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