Organ-Specific Immune Regulation

Infections and inflammatory diseases can appear in all organs and tissues. The development of these diseases is influenced by the underlying pathogen, the immune system as well as local organ-specific factors. These three factors regulate one another in a complex interaction. The goal of our scientists is to understand the crosstalk between the immune-system and the respective organ-specific factors and its impact on the development of infections. This research should result in new therapeutic options for the treatment of infections.


Our Research

Infections and inflammatory reactions can impact all human organs. In order to successfully combat such an infection, cells from the immune system must be recruited into the infected organ where they cooperate with organ-resident cells. Immune cells and the inflicted organ-specific cells communicate by means of soluble messenger substances that link with receptors from the involved cells. Receptor engagement induces a cascade of intra-cellular signal molecules, which induce the production and secretion of further immune-modulating messenger substances (cytokines, chemokines, etc). 

Schematic diagram of the research field „Organ-specific immune regulation”. © HZI

Activation of intracellular signal cascades initiates as well production of anti-bacterial molecules. These pro-inflammatory signal pathways are subject to fine-tuned counter-regulation, in order to avoid an excessive and damaging inflammatory reaction. Since certain cell types only appear in individual organs (e.g. hepatocytes in the liver, astrocytes in the brain) and have specific immunological functions, even infections with the same pathogen can develop differently in individual organs.

Our scientists use two approaches to answer questions concerning the organ-specificity of inflammatory disorders. First, they conduct clinical studies. Second, they use well-characterised mouse models of infections and autoimmune diseases to research the reciprocal regulation of immune cells and organ-resident cells. Studiess regarding interactive regulation of the intra-cellular signal cascade by inhibitory signaling molecules (deubiquitinating enzymes) are the main focus of their work, since these molecues represent innovative therapeutic in infectious and inflammatory diseases.  

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