Welcome to the research group „Molecular Infectiology and Pneumology“!

Our group (head: Dr. med. Leif Erik Sander) is part of the Department of Infectious Diseases and Respiratory Medicine of the Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin.

The immune system protects us from infections, yet immune activation can cause serious damage to host tissues and thus has to be carefully dosed. Moreover, efficient host defense against various classes of pathogens requires very different responses.

How does the immune system decide on the mode and strength of its responses?

To answer this question, our lab studies the complex interactions between several pathogens and the immune system. We have previously reported that immune cells can actively distinguish between viable and dead bacteria. Detection of bacterial viability, which is the quintessential basis for infectivity, triggers robust immune responses. These findings exemplify the immune system’s inherent capacity to carefully scale the microbial threat. Consequently, immune responses are tailored to the microbial threat level. This type of immunological decision making is critically determined by the class and combination of immune receptors which are engaged. Yet the resulting responses also vary greatly between different cell types, and are strongly shaped by the local microenvironment. Thus, we believe that a series of checkpoints that integrate microbial and host signals dictates the immunological outcome of a microbial encounter.

Our goal is to decipher the various risk assessment mechanisms and their impact on immunity. Deeper insight into these pathways will aid in the design of novel vaccines and treatments for infectious diseases.