Molecular Inflammation Medicine

The Chair of Molecular Inflammation Medicine  is an integral part of the scientific board of the Comprehensive Center for Inflammation Medicine (CCIM) at Kiel and Lubeck universities. The Chair provides a link between clinical inflammation medicine at the University outpatient centers and the basic science laboratories focusing on infection biology, allergy and inflammatory lung disorders at the Research Center Borstel. Particular emphasis is laid on the development and validation of new complex model systems for the diagnosis, therapy and prevention of chronic inflammatory diseases.

The research unit Molecular Inflammation Medicine  focuses on chronic inflammatory diseases in barrier organs (lung, skin, gut, vessels) and tries to define common pathophysiological pathways in such a way that new molecular approaches to diagnosis, therapy and prevention of chronic inflammatory diseases are developed. New biomarkers and therapeutic strategies are then validated in experimental model systems (in vitro, in vivo in the mouse, and in cohort studies in patients).

The major focus of our work is on microbially induced chronic inflammatory responses which contribute to containment of microbial replication, but also cause irreparable tissue damage. A typical example of reciprocally regulated protection and pathology is the infectious disease tuberculosis (TB). Here, a granuloma (i.e. the focal accumulation of mononuclear cells) helps restrain the growth of the causative microorganism, Mycobacterium tuberculosis,  but also displaces healthy parenchymal tissue and, via central necrotization and eruption into a bronchus, helps disseminate the microorganism into the environment.

Important genetically tractable model systems for investigating TB pathogenesis in the mouse are aerosol infections with M. tuberculosis and M. avium which permit investigating the molecular mechanisms of the induction, maintenance and regulation of the granulomatous response. Genotyped isolates derived from TB patients, but also genetically engineered strains of M. tuberculosis are analysed with respect to their in vivo virulence and persistence. The barrier function of the lung and the regulation of the immune response are being studied using transgenic mice. In a functional genomics approach the group evaluates genes associated with susceptibility towards tuberculosis for their pathogenetic relevance and their usefulness as biomarkers for disease progression.