The consequences of COVID for future immune responses
The COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect our daily lives since many former patients report persistent impairment of their physical and cognitive performance, a phenomenon known as Long COVID. We know that infections can profoundly shape the immune system on a long term but while this can have positive effects due to specific memory formation, it can also have unpredictable consequences when we are exposed to different other inflammatory triggers.
To explore this topic, we use an experimental model of COVID-19 to investigate the molecular long-term consequences of SARS-CoV-2 infection for the immune system and what this means for the development of lung allergies and infections.
Mechanisms and consequences of antimicrobial type 2 responses
Microbes are all around us and profoundly shape our immune system. While textbooks commonly assign type 1 and type 3 immunity to anti-bacterial responses, bacterial virulence factors and toxins also induce type 2 immunity as consequence of cell death and tissue injury. In addition, infections with certain bacteria appear to predispose to allergy development.
We aim to disentangle the molecular mechanisms of antimicrobial type 2 immunity and to explore its biological value in host defense.
Biological functions of type 2 granulocytes
Mast cells, eosinophils and basophils are morphologically-related cells since all three of them are primarily defined and identified by the presence of cytoplasmic granules. These granules contain potent cell type-specific and common compounds with pro-inflammatory and even tissue-damaging substances. The three cell types further have functions in type 2 immune responses and allergic diseases in common, we therefore refer to them as type 2 granulocytes (T2Gs). Remarkably, particularly mast cells and eosinophils are well equipped to act as major communication hubs between the immune and nervous systems.
Our group aims to better understand potential biological redundancies among T2Gs and their specific functions in physiology (e.g. neuro-immune cross-talk) and host defense.