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Research at the Division of Allergology

Publications

Team

Head of Division

Prof. Dr. med. Vera Mahler

Secretary

Assadullah Ghauri (Division Secretary)

Senior Scientists

Dr. Detlef Bartel (Head of Section "Batch Control and Allergen Analytics")
Dr. Thomas Holzhauser (Head of Section "Recombinant Allergen Therapeutics")
Dr. Susanne Kaul (Head of Section "Clinical Allergology")

Scientists

Dr. Frank Führer
Dr. Kathrin Paulus
Dr. Andreas Reuter
Dr. Dirk Schiller
Dr. Thomas Schulenborg
Dr. Jelena Spiric
Dr. Lothar Vogel
Dr. Julia Zimmer

PhD Students

Stefanie Allgöwer
Cindy Nürnberger
Jasmin Popp
Anna Povalova

Diploma/Master/Bachelor Students

Chris Hartmann

Technical Assistance

Sascha Döring
Anna Maria Engin
Ellen Grosser
Anne-Christine Junker
Kornelia Kleiner
Stefanie Randow
Luisa Schwaben
Daniel Strecker
Elke Völker

Research Summary

Site under construction. Update in preparation.

The Research at the Division "Allergology" is focused on allergen structures and the development of novel strategies and reagents for diagnosis and specific immunotherapy (SIT) of allergies with special emphasis on food allergies.

Allergies are an inadequate immune response against normally harmless environmental antigens, such as proteins from pollens, animals or foods. In these cases, the Th2 cell response dominates over a Th1 response and stimulates the synthesis of immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies. These antibodies bind to high-affinity receptors on the surface of mast cells and, after cross-linking by the relevant allergen, induce the release of preformed and newly synthesised inflammatory mediators, thus leading to the typical symptoms of allergy. Apart from treating the symptoms, e.g. with antihistamines, the only established curative treatment is specific immunotherapy (SIT) with allergen extracts. By administration of increasing amounts of allergens, this form of treatment modulates the immune response, resulting in a protective T-cell response. However, SIT of food allergy has been difficult because of severe side effects caused by whole-food extracts.

The emphasis of our research is directed to different areas. Currently, SIT is based on allergen extracts which are complex mixtures of allergenic and non-allergenic proteins, polysaccharides and other components prepared from natural source materials. Standardisation of such extracts for pharmaceutical purposes is a challenge, and still not achieved for many allergen extracts. Apart from developing novel assays which are suitable to determine the allergenic activity of individual components in extracts, genetically engineered allergens may in the future represent pure and fully standardised allergenic source materials.

A considerable amount of research activities is devoted to the structural and biological basis of protein allergenicity. This includes the generation and characterisation of recombinant allergens. After comparison with their natural counterparts, recombinant allergens are used as tools for epitope studies and as basis for designing genetically engineered candidate vaccines for SIT. Panels of recombinant allergens from one source organism are used to obtain refined diagnostic information in an approach called component-resolved diagnosis which is performed in collaboration with clinical partners. Further fields that will become more important in the future are the identification of specific diagnostic markers, development of allergy models that will help to assess new treatment strategies and the introduction of a new approach for the vaccination against allergies.

Current projects

Site under construction. Update in preparation.

  1. In vitro methods for the standardisation of allergen preparations
  2. Structural and biological basis of protein allergenicity
  3. Component-resolved diagnosis with recombinant allergens
  4. Allergy models
  5. Development of optimised allergy vaccines
  6. Hidden allergens in processed foods
  7. Prevalence, Cost and Basis of Food Allergy across Europe (EuroPrevall)
  8. VAC2VAC

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