Dr. Marie Groneberg and Dr. Luzia Veletzky receive doctoral prizes from the BNITM Friends Association
Of gender differences in the defence against infection and a truly neglected tropical disease
This year's doctoral prizes of the Association of Friends of the Tropical Institute Hamburg e.V. (VdF) go to Dr Marie Groneberg (Natural Sciences) and Dr Luzia Veletzky (Medicine). They are endowed with 1,000 euros each and honour particularly outstanding dissertations at the Bernhard Nocht Institute for Tropical Medicine.
Men fall ill differently, women too. Compared to women, men contract numerous viral, bacterial and parasitic infections much more frequently and severely. These include, for example, hepatitis B, covid-19, tuberculosis, Helicobacter and amoebic infections.
Prof. Hannelore Lotter's Molecular Infection Immunology group studies, among other things, gender-specific immune reactions in the formation and regeneration of amoebic liver abscesses. She had already shown that the sex hormone testosterone favours the development of liver abscesses.
Regulatory protein partly responsible for sex difference
Marie Groneberg and her colleagues followed up on these results. They analysed sex-specific differences in the acquired immune response in amoebic liver abscesses and carried out detailed molecular investigations of the immune response in the mouse model.
Among other things, they determined the occurrence and number of immune cells characterised in detail and the concentration of immunological messengers in the liver and blood of normal mice and mice with a targeted genetic defect.
They showed that in experimental amoeba infections in the liver, a specific immunoregulatory protein (HIF-1alpha) is partly responsible for the stronger immune response of the male mice. The protein is present in the liver cells of both sexes in response to amoebic infection, but influences the immune cell response of male and female animals to different degrees. Targeted knockdown of HIF-1alpha in the liver reduces the inflammation- and abscess-promoting immune response in male mice and leads to the abolition of the sex difference.