Lab Schmidt-Weber / Chaker

Research Field

Differentiation of induced sputum cells. Sample of an asthmatic patient with eosinophilic and basophilic granulocytes. Photo: Ulrich Zissler

Aim of this research team is to understand how environmental triggers can break allergen tolerance and lead to persistent intolerance against allergens. The life long immune memory normally protects us from harmful infections, but in the case of allergy it is responsible for the every year re-occurring symptoms. Therefore mechanisms leading to this immune memory formation and its modulation are a key interest of the group.

Naïve CD4+ T cells represent an interesting research target in this context, since these cells are the common progenitor cells of all T cell subsets that are the carriers for the immune memory and they therefore form the basis of the immunologic memory. Thus, the fate of stem cell-like naïve T cells have to be strongly regulated, since a disordered differentiation process may lead to an imbalance between T cell populations, thereby affecting the development of immune memory to serious disease as asthma and allergies. Surface proteins play an important role in such differentiation processes since the surface of the cell is responsible for the recognition and the response to changes in the environment.

For that reason we used a mass-spectrometry-based technology to selectively identify cell surface proteins of living cells. Using this approach we generated a comprehensive cell surface atlas of naïve and activated CD4+ T cells and identified several novel markers, which have to be further validated and might include interesting candidates potentially applicable for a guided T cell differentiation and control of the immune memory.

Another focus of the AiwayImmunology group lies on epithelial cell biology. The epithelium is the first cellular barrier and is therefore critical for processes that involve the immune cells subsequently. There are crucial changes in the airway epithelium that are at least partially mediated by Th1/Th2 cytokines resulting in asthma pathogenesis. Thus, we investigate the role of airway epithelium in allergic inflammation under the influence of Th1/Th2 mediators. Aim of the study is the understand the crosstalk between epithelial cells and immune cells in order to identify specific biomarkers for allergic inflammation. Furthermore we are interested in the WNT/β-catenin signaling and its potential role in regulating this complex crosstalk.

All projects are supported by the DZL (German Lung Research Center).