Welcome to the Institute for Medical Biology Website!
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The Institute for Medical Biology (Institut für medizinische Biologie) researches on improving lives for HIV-positive patients, investigating new avenues for HIV cure and HIV vaccine strategies. A particular focus is the role of CD4 T cell responses during HIV and other viral infections, with an eye towards how these responses may be manipulated for vaccine design. From classical helper roles to newly understood functions important for immune regulation, B cell development or even direct cytolysis, CD4 T cells are key to the orchestration of the immune system and represent a multi-faceted area of research.
In HIV infection, virus-specific CD4 T cells are preferentially infected and depleted. Surprisingly little is known about the role and functions of these cells, nor is it understood how HIV-specific CD4 T cell responses can be induced without risking an increase in viral targets. The Streeck laboratory therefore focuses on several different areas of basic CD4 T cell immunobiology and specific aspects of CD4 T cell activity that are especially relevant to HIV infection and vaccine design. In particular, we are actively pursuing the following research areas:
- Understanding the role of HIV-specific T follicular helper cells in the induction of broadly neutralizing antibodies;
- Understanding of direct cytotoxic roles of HIV-specific CD4 T cells;
- Identification of factors that influence the susceptibility of CD4 T cells to HIV infection;
- Assessment of HIV-specific CD4 T cell immunodominance patterns and HLA class II restriction; and
- Assessment of CD4 T cell mediated factors involved in enhancement of cytolytic activity of HIV-specific CD8 T cells.
Much of this work is technically challenging, and requires the creative use of innovative techniques and new technologies. Together, these project areas comprise a comprehensive program designed not only to understand the basic anti-viral functions of CD4 T cells, but also to determine the ways in which these responses can be harnessed for future vaccine design.