Microscopic images

Subunit Immune Ontogeny - Dr. Madeleine Altfeld-Bunders

The immaturity of the immune system in children is considered to be a major factor contributing to their enhanced susceptibility to viral infections and more severe progression of disease as observed in adults. In the subunit we investigate the mechanisms underlying the enhanced susceptibility to infections in children and the pathogenesis of viral infections, including HIV and adenovirus infection. Prenatal challenges such as maternal HIV can furthermore aggravate immune incompetence in young children. In collaboration with scientists in Africa we investigate the underlying mechanisms to identify targets to restore immune-metabolic homeostasis and immune cell functioning despite of prenatal maternal HIV exposure in children.

Our studies into human immune ontogeny have furthermore highlighted an important role for immune cells in mediating tissue generation in human development. Moreover, we have shown that CD4+ T cells in particularly early in life regulate tissue development; however dysregulated immune responses in preterm infants also contribute to tissue inflammation. The underlying mechanisms for the crosstalk between immune cells and tissue cells in infectious and inflammatory diseases in children are unknown.  To this end we have developed in vitro organoid-immune cell system models. These novel in vitro models recapitulate the tissue in 3D and allow for the first time to investigate human tissue-immune cell interactions using primary cells derived from specific patient groups to investigate the role of innate lymphocytes and CD4+ T cells in infectious and inflammatory diseases.

Current Group Members:

  • Martin Baumdick Ph.D. (Postdoctoral researcher)
  • M. Sc. Johannes Jung (PhD student)
  • Kimberly Zieger (cand. med.)
  • Lucy Wegner (cand. med.)
  • Ole Hinrich (Master student)
  • Jennifer Niersch (PhD student)
  • Julia Jäger (PhD student)
  • Paul Kretschmer (cand. med.)
  • Niklas Jeromin (cand. med.)