Molekulare Pneumologie

Prof. Dr. rer. nat. Dr. Susetta Finotto

Asthma, rhinovirus and bacteria induced asthma

Allergic asthma is a chronic inflammatory disease of the airways with high prevalence in children that affects about 10% of the population in the US and Europe.

It has been recently established that rhinovirus and gram negative bacteria are the main cause of asthma exacerbation especially in children. Thus, beside cytokines, a better understanding of the interferon pathway is relevant for understanding the pathogenesis of asthma. Specifically, the role of the interferon type I and the newly described interferon type III (interferon lambda/IL-28) family are still poorly understood in this disease. The present project aims at the visual characterization of allergen, rhinovirus and gram negative and gram positive bacteria encounter with the host cells and the subsequent regulation of interferon type I (interferon alpha and beta) as well as interferon lambda (IL-28) pathway in human and experimental murine models of asthma.

In the last 6 years our group has set up, with the help of many highly dedicated medical and PhD students and technicians, the scientific background of collaborations in Germany and in the world that would enable us to progress into a better understanding of these pathways especially in pediatric asthma.

Specifically, for a better understanding the immunological responses to rhinovirus we would not have been able to initiate this field of investigation without the help of Prof. Nikos Papadopoulos, who provided us with the rhinovirus and the background knowledge that allowed our studies to develop. Prof. Nikos Papadopoulos joined the University of Manchester in early 2014. He is also Professor of Allergy and Pediatric Allergy at the University of Athens, and immediate Past President of the European Academy of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (EAACI, www.eaaci.org). His main research focus is the role of infections in respiratory (asthma, rhinitis), as well as food allergy, with extensive collaborations in the context of EU Projects, such as EARIP, iFAAM, FAST and PreDicta. He has published more than 200 papers (h-index: >40), has received a number of international awards and is invited to speak at international scientific meetings some 30 times a year. He has served in committees of EAACI, GA2LEN, WAO, EFA and ARIA.

Moreover, we are thankful to the continued collaboration with Prof. Tytti Vuorinen, who has and is analyzing the respiratory viruses in the airways of our cohorts of children. She is head of the Institute of Virology and Microbiology at the University of Turku. The Institute of Virology has had research focus on respiratory viral infections over 3 decades. During the last decade rhinovirus has been one of her main interests.

The understanding of gene regulation upon allergen, virus and bacteria encounter would not be possible without a personalized medicine approach in which the response of the host to infectious agents or allergens can be translated into personal host gene regulation. To this understanding has been and is a great help the gene array analysis performed at the laboratory directed by Prof. Scott T. Weiss. He is in fact the Scientific Director of Partners HealthCare Personalized Medicine where he supervises a faculty of 6 and a staff of over 100 who are dedicated to translating the results of human genome research into clinical medical practice. His laboratory has close working relationships with the Department of Environmental Health at the Harvard School of Public Health, where he is a Professor of Environmental Health (Respiratory Biology Program), the Biostatistics Department at HSPH, the Pulmonary and Critical Care Division, and the Immunology Division, Department of Medicine, in Brigham and Women’s Hospital. This background research would also receive a major development at the molecular level by the recently established collaboration with Prof. Vahid Sandoghdar, Director and Scientific Member at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Light in Erlangen since 2012.