Project manager: Dr. Ilka Knippertz
This research group focuses on two main key topics:
(i) transcriptional targeting of Dendritic cells (DCs) for the development of new vaccination strategies, and
(ii) the activation of the aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR) for the induction of tolerogenic DCs.
Regarding the first topic, we aim to develop a new vaccine for the treatment of patients suffering from cancer or chronic viral infections (e.g. HIV). Currently, new therapeutic vaccination strategies, using adenoviral vectors as well as nanoparticles, are in development to target DCs directly in patients. To ensure specific therapeutic gene expression only in mature immune-stimulating DCs, we use the DC-specific human CD83 promoter, which allows the transcriptional targeting of these DC. Hence, different therapeutic adenoviruses as well as nanoparticles will be generated, allowing the induction of potent anti-tumoral or anti-viral immune responses, directly in patients.
The second emphasis of our group is to study the mechanisms by which different AhR agonists modulate the phenotype and function of DCs, thereby influencing the immune response in physiology and pathophysiology. In this context, we recently showed, that DCs treated with the AhR ligand Quercetin, a naturally occurring flavonoid, developed a tolerogenic phenotype. Currently, we analyse the underlying molecular mechanisms, of AhR activation by Quercetin and other endogenous agonists. The long term aim is the development of new treatment options for patients suffering from autoimmune diseases.