News from the Group
Helena Fehling and Annika Bea win the research picture challenge at a symposium hosted by BNITM on World NTD Day (Neglected Tropical Diseases) on January 30th at Erika-Haus/ University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf, Germany
The enemy within
A View through a microscope: This picture shows macrophages (blue) isolated from a healthy human infected in vitro with Leishmania parasites (red).
Leishmaniasis is an increasingly prevalent and complex group of poverty-related, neglected tropical disease that affects over 12 million people worldwide. As with many infectious diseases, it is observed that men are more susceptible to the disease and have severe disease progression. Leishmaniasis is endemic in at least 88 countries, but is becoming more prevalent in southern Europe due to climate change, tourism and migration. The devastating effects of the disease range from stigmatization to death, depending on the Leishmania species. To date, there is still no adequate treatment available for patients. Existing drugs for leishmaniasis generally have serious drawbacks. Therefor new drugs are urgently needed.
Leishmania parasites invade host immune cells such as macrophages, where they can survive and multiply. They can evade their clearance by manipulating the host´s immune responses. Our research group at the Bernhard Nocht Institute for Tropical Medicine has identified, synthesized and patented immunomodulators that specifically activate the human immune system to better eliminate intracellular Leishmania parasites. Results so far indicate that our molecules provide a promising approach that could improve the currently unsatisfactory situation of treating this neglected tropical disease.
Poster Award for Annika in Cartagena, Colombia
Bernhard Nocht Institut for Tropical Medicine
was awarded as best poster presentation award granted by Tropical Medicine
and Infectious Disease an open access journal by MDPI, in the 7th World
Congress on Leishmaniasis, WorldLeish7, with the abstract entitled:
"Influence of leishmania infection on the biology of host cells"
on August 6, 2022, Cartagena, Colombia.
Excursion to the Börnsen Strawberry Field 2022
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.
Award of the Werner Otto Prize to BNITM scientist Julie Sellau
Hamburg, 14 December 2021 - Dr Julie Sellau, scientist in the Molecular Infection Immunology group at the Bernhard Nocht Institute for Tropical Medicine, today receives the Werner Otto Award, endowed with 8000€, for her outstanding contribution to knowledge on gender-specific immunology. Her award-winning work was published in the renowned journal Nature Communications in July 2020.
Research on gender differences in infectious immunology is in its infancy. While men are more susceptible to infectious diseases, women are more prone to chronic inflammation and autoimmune diseases. In order to create better treatment options, it is important to clarify the causes.
The Lotter working group, in which Ms Sellau has been a researcher for four and a half years, is dedicated to precisely this question: Using the amoebic liver abscess, they showed that the male sex hormone testosterone causes certain immune cells, which are actually supposed to protect against invading pathogens, to increase inflammatory reactions in the liver. These immune cells thus contribute significantly to tissue damage. The findings of Dr. Sellau and her colleagues open up new approaches for more targeted personalised medicine.