Experimental Infection Research
If we are attacked by a virus, the immune system reacts within a matter of hours. Highly specialized immune cells recognise the pathogen and release highly efficient messengers, which activate the immune system. These messengers include the interferons, which ensure that individual host cells are mildly infected . At the same time, interferons can also influence the course of the immune response and the memory of the immune system. Without these messengers virus infections - which we normally overcome almost unnoticeably - become fatal within just a few days. The group Experimental Infection Research is based at the TWINCORE in Hannover.
Precisely how these mechanisms function remains unclear, however. Similarly unclear is how different pathogens prevent the release of interferon, or its effect, thus enabling us to fall ill nevertheless. And how does the central nervous system protect itself against virus infections? These questions are a key focus of the work of Prof Dr Ulrich Kalinke at his Institute for Experimental Infection Research.
Despite many unanswered questions remaining, interferons have been used as medicines for many years: to date, interferon alpha, in combination with Ribavirin®, is the sole effective therapy to combat chronic hepatitis C virus infections. Interferon beta plays a key role in the treatment of multiple sclerosis, a chronic inflammatory disease of the central nervous system. Furthermore, interferons are also used to treat various tumour illnesses. The reasons why interferons have a positive influence on such a variety of illnesses is also the focus of Ulrich Kalinke's research.
In order to be able to answer these comprehensive questions, the researchers at TWINCORE are co-operating with partners from the Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research and Hannover Medical School on numerous twinning projects.
Prof Dr Ulrich Kalinke
Executive Director TWINCORE