What are some experimental research topics

Experimental immunology

No matter where we are, it is teeming with pathogens - bacteria, viruses, and parasites are everywhere. So that we can still stay healthy, our immune system has developed various strategies to control the spread of intruders in the body and to prevent their pathogenic effects. The body randomly forms highly specific immune cells (T- and B-) that can recognize and fight against the numerous pathogens.

However, there is a risk that cells are produced “by chance” that do not recognize pathogens but the body's own molecules and thus trigger so-called autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes or multiple sclerosis.

Regulatory T cells, the “blue helmet soldiers” of the immune system

The immune system sorts out a large part of these self-reactive immune cells during production using a control process known as “central tolerance”. Even so, there remain some self-reactive immune cells in every human being that have escaped elimination. In order to prevent these cells from attacking the body's own structures and triggering autoimmune diseases, the immune system has developed various regulatory mechanisms, so-called “peripheral tolerance mechanisms”.

An important part of this are the regulatory (Tregs) that belong to the T-. One can best think of these cells as "blue helmet soldiers" of the immune system. Their most important task is to prevent immune reactions against the body's own tissue and thus the development of autoimmune diseases. In addition, the Tregs also intervene in the defense against pathogens in order to prevent excessive immune reactions, which in the worst case can lead to severe organ damage. However, if they are present in too large numbers, necessary and desired immune responses against pathogens and tumors as well as successful vaccinations can be suppressed. An optimal balance of the Tregs is therefore essential for a functional immune system.

In order to use or modify Tregs specifically for therapeutic purposes, we need to better understand their formation, their properties and their mechanism of action. These fundamental investigations are the focus of the "Experimental Immunology" department.