DFG Funding for Immunology Research in Würzburg

A team at the University of Würzburg led by systems immunologist Wolfgang Kastenmüller has received a grant of around 440,000 euros from the German Research Foundation (DFG) for research into dendritic cells.

They are the research focus of the DFG-funded immunology team: dendritic cells (shown in green). Here you can see them in a lymph node. Blood vessels are shown in red, connective tissue cells in turquoise and B cells in blue. (Dr Milas Ugur / University of Würzburg) (Image: Dr. Milas Ugur / Universität Würzburg)

Dendritic cells play a pivotal role in coordinating immune responses within the human body. Their task is to recognise foreign structures and malignant cells, subsequently stimulating their destruction. A team of researchers at the University of Würzburg (JMU), led by systems immunologist Wolfgang Kastenmüller, holder of the Chair of Systems Immunology I and Director at the Max Planck Research Group for Systems Immunology, is investigating how dendritic cells develop and navigate through the body. The German Research Foundation (DFG) and the French Agence Nationale de la Recherche (ANR) have now provided funding totalling 436,000 euros for this work.

The German team’s project partner is the French immunobiologist Marc Bajénoff from the Centre d’Immunologie de Marseille-Luminy (CIML).

“The findings from our research are important for the treatment of cancer, for example,” explains Kastenmüller. “Dendritic cells hold significant prognostic value for tumour diseases: The greater their presence within a tumour, the better the prospects for those affected.” This is especially true after immunotherapy. “If we understand more precisely how we can restore networks of dendritic cells in tumours, this will provide us with the basis for developing customised therapies.”

In single file through the body

The research team recently discovered how dendritic cells can organise into three-dimensional networks within the human body: They align themselves along blood vessels and migrate sequentially along their outer walls – much like children walking in single file. A locally acting messenger substance, an FLT3 ligand, ensures that the cells do not lose each other and stay together as they travel through the body.

The project will be funded for three years. It is a grant within the framework of the ANR-DFG funding program for German-French research projects.

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