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INNATE IMMUNITY and CANCER
A first line of research at MI3 exploits innate immunity to combat cancer cells, either by direct cytotoxicity or by priming an efficient adaptive immune response. Of central importance are checkpoints that control NK and myeloid cell reactivity at the level of cell surface receptors, metabolic cues, and both transcriptional and post-transcriptional regulators. We dissect mechanisms of the interaction of innate immune cells with cancer cells and the tumor microenvironment to understand tumor escape from innate immune control. Advances in innate immuno-oncology will be the basis for designing innovative cancer treatment protocols in pre-clinical mouse models and cancer patients.
INFLAMMATION and INNATE IMMUNITY
A second research line at MI3 concentrates on mechanisms of innate immune reactivity against pathogens and in inflammatory conditions. A major focus is on the analysis of signal transduction pathways in response to bacterial toxins and pattern recognition receptor activation. The aim of these studies is to understand the responsiveness and contribution of macrophages, innate lymphoid cells, NK cells and platelets to inflammatory conditions, and involves dissection of the crosstalk between innate immune cells and other cell types such as epithelial, endothelial and mesenchymal stromal cells.
In response to the current pandemic, an additional research line engages in SARS-CoV-2 infection. We develop new concepts to detect SARS-CoV-2 in clinical specimens. In addition to conventional PCR-based methods, we participate in the development of a CRISPR/Cas-based method and analyze clinical specimens by mass-spectrometry to identify SARS-CoV-2 induced changes including innate immune responses. To define mechanisms of immune activation, we develop co-culture models of innate immune cells with virally infected cells. We further evaluate a SARS-CoV-2 specific antibody in an ongoing clinical study (www.immunitor.de) to measure immunotest performance. To monitor both infection as well as the dynamics of anti-SARS-CoV-2 responses in the population, we conduct studies through CoVLAB, Germany’s first fully integrated mobile Corona laboratory (www.covlab.de). Finally, within a clinical study, we evaluate the use of convalescent plasma in the treatment of COVID-19 patients, including characterization of the convalescent plasma donors to understand infection and pathomechanisms as well as long-lasting immune responses.