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P1 Molecular and functional effects of redox-active plant derived substances as potential candidates for therapeutic immune modulation

Project leader: Prof. Dr. med. Yvonne Samstag
Division Molecular Immunology, Institute of Immunology, Medical Faculty Heidelberg, Heidelberg University
phone: +49 (0)6221 56-4039, e-mailhomepage

The immune system plays an important role to ensure the health of an individual. Hyperactivity of immune cells causes chronic inflammation. Hypo-responsiveness in turn leads to immune deficiencies (induced for example by tumors). Both may at least in part be related to a disturbance of the cellular redox balance, i.e. production and elimination of reactive oxygen species. Many natural active substances derived from plants are supposed to influence the redox balance and, hence, may be promising candidates for  therapeutic immune modulation. Aim of this project it to unravel the molecular mechanisms of action of redox-active plant derived substances on the signal transduction and cellular responses of human immune cells. To this end, we will employ a variety of modern technologies in cell and molecular biology, as well as high-resolution imaging techniques.

Fellow: Divya Lairikyengbam

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P2 Control of the Innate immune responses by diet-related activation of the aryl hydrocarbon receptor

Project leader: Prof. Dr. rer. nat. Adelheid Cerwenka
Immunobiochemistry, Medical Faculty Mannheim, Heidelberg University
phone: +49 (06)221 424-480, e-mailhomepage

A connection between nutrition and the activation of components of the innate immune system, such as natural killer (NK) cells and innate lymphoid cells (ILCs), has been discussed for a long time; insights into mechanisms, however, are still missing. The aim of the project is to decipher the influence of nutritional compounds (e.g. broccoli and radishes) and diets (e.g. high fat diet) on the innate immune response in the liver and to uncover the underlying mechanisms (e.g. the role of the aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR)). To this end, we will investigate innovative mouse models of diet-induced liver damage and carcinogenesis and will validate gained concepts with human immune cells. The results obtained in this project should help to design diet regimens for patients with liver disease that might positively affect the outcome of disease.

Fellow: Mingeum Jeong

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P3 Investigation of the molecular mode of action of ginger and boldin in inflammatory response and intestinal barrier function

Project leader: PD Dr. rer. nat. Beate Niesler
Genetics of Neurogastroenterologic Disorders, Department of Human Molecular Genetics, Institute of Human Genetics, Medical Faculty Heidelberg, Heidelberg University
phone: +49 (0)6221 56-35274, e-mailhomepage

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) often goes along with impaired intestinal barrier function and low grade inflammation. The pungent agents in ginger, menthol and boldin inhibit serotonin-3 receptor (5-HT3R) function. 5-HT3 receptors regulate emesis and vomiting, gut motility and peristalsis, secretion and visceral perception as well as intestinal barrier function. Major aim of the project is the investigation of the mode of action of ginger and boldin and the role of 5-HT3Rs in inflammatory response and intestinal barrier function.

Fellow: Ignacio Andrés Vergara

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P4 The molecular basis of photobiomodulation in skin

Project leader: Prof. Dr. med. Norbert Gretz
Medical Research Center, Medical Faculty Mannheim, Heidelberg University
phone: +49 (0)621 383-5602, e-mailhomepage

Aim of this project is to elucidate how/what light-effects in skin are transferred into changes in gene expression profiles and their final translation into proteins occur. Furthermore, the impact of microRNAs will be analyzed. We expect that the aryl hydrocarbon receptor is the major player which leads to changes in expression profiles. Therefore, AhR agonists and antagonists will be used. The following techniques will be applied: gene expression profiling, optical tissue cleaning, western plotting, PCR. The project includes animal experiments on chronic wounds and tumor development.

Fellow: Aparna Chauhan

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