Gitta Stockinger group

Maintenance and regulation of peripheral immune responses

The functions of the immune system depend on complex interactions inside the organism, leading to responses to infections, which eliminate the pathogen and thus protect from disease. However the immune system also has to avoid mounting responses against the body’s own healthy cells, otherwise the individual may develop autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, and multiple sclerosis.

Our initial studies focused on CD4 T cells, which play a major role in coordinating immune responses and avoiding autoimmunity. CD4 T cells differentiate into specialized subsets characterised by ‘signature’ cytokines in response to interactions with innate cells such as dendritic cells or macrophages. The complex interplay of cells and soluble mediators that are released upon contact of the organism with a pathogen shapes the type of immune response that develops. Dysregulation of inflammatory immune responses can lead to immune pathology and even autoimmunity and we are interested in the critical steps leading to either successful resolution of immune responses or their dysregulation. It is now becoming increasingly clear that so-called innate immune cells, including NKT cells, TCRγδ T cells and innate lymphoid (ILC) cells are of crucial importance in the defence against pathogens and in shaping the adaptive immune response and our focus has widened to include investigations of such cell types.

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