GRK 2157: 3D Tissue Models for Studying Microbial Infections by Human Pathogens

Infectious diseases are still one of the main causes of mortality of man. A clear limitation of studying human pathogens is the lack of a relevant infection model. This is particularly true for human pathogens for which no animal reservoir is known. Since simple cell lines, cell culture systems or animals are highly artificial models for human pathogens we aim to develop and apply novel human 3D infection models based on engineered human tissues.

Within this project, scientists from different disciplines take a novel route to investigate microbial infections under close-to-natural conditions (focus of research). Host-microbe interactions are investigated in engineered three-dimensional (3D) human tissues. The planned application of next generation analysis technology (e.g. single cell and dual RNA-Seq; super-resolution imaging; gene silencing in primary cells) will enable us to gain unprecedented insights into the molecular mechanisms underlying human infections.

Such advanced research combining complex primary infection models and next-generation technologies at the highest level requires the education of a new generation of scientists familiar with the underlying principles and applications of these techniques. Therefore, the interdisciplinary training of the PhD students in state-of-the-art and emerging technologies together with continuous scientific exchange are the key elements of this Research Training Group.

The GRK 2157 integrates the long-standing expertise in infectious diseases at the University of Würzburg (scientific environment) and new technologies into an exciting new focus on 3D human tissue models. We expect to develop integrated concepts relating to the mechanisms by which microbes overcome different infection barriers in humans. The repertoire of pathogens includes measles virus, different bacterial pathogens and trypanosomes. Understanding the key events of natural infections will form a basis to design new preventive and therapeutic strategies to combat infectious diseases.