Lifestyle/Chemicals - Mikrobiom/Immunmodulation

Scientific theme

Apart from genetic predisposition the major influence on our health is lifestyle and environmental factors such as environmental chemicals. The development of many diseases is based on a dysregulated immune system where the microbiome-immune interaction plays an important role. The strongest impact of the microbiome on our immune system is in early childhood when the maturation of the immune system take place. During this maturation phase the immune system is especially vulnerable and more susceptible to environmental triggers, which might cause lasting long-term damage to the immune system and misguided immune responses. Lifestyle and environmental chemicals can either have a direct effect on the immune system or indirectly via changes induced in the microbiome.

The aim of this research topic is to investigate the influence of lifestyle and environmental chemicals on the immune system and its interaction with the microbiome as well as the potentially developing diseases. The investigations take place on a population-based level (e.g. prospective birth cohort LINA) as well as on cellular level. For this purpose we established new, innovative cellular methods, which allow a detailed characterisation of the immune response. Our newly developed multi-parameter flow cytometry method enables us to detect in very small sample amounts nearly all human blood immune cells (e.g. Th1/Th2 cells, regulatory T cells, MAIT cells, NK and iNKT cells) and their reaction to environmental chemicals and microorganisms (e.g. microbiota and viruses). The identification of immunomodulatory chemicals and the underlying mechanisms is aimed to be implemented in regulatory measures for the development of new chemicals. A big challenge for our research is the evaluation of multiple exposure at cohort level as well as at cellular level.


Projects supported by third-party funds

Third-party donor Project Coordinator
Helmholtz-Gemeinschaft Deutscher Forschungszentren (HGF) International Fellow Award Prof. Janine Felix Dr. Gunda Herberth