The basic research teams focus on the generation of patient-specific in vitro models seeking to better understand changes in the enteric nervous system, the immune system and the epithelial barrier in gastrointestinal diseases and to investigate them on a molecular level.
In addition, corresponding resected patient tissue, which is fixed and embedded in paraffin immediately after surgery, is used for complementary analyses.
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Neuronal cell models
The team around Prof. Dr. Beate Niesler and Dr. Stefanie Schmitteckert (Dipl. Ing. Ralph Röth) at the Institute of Human Genetics in Heidelberg, works on the elucidation of impaired gene regulatory networks in neurogastrointestinal diseases and the associated changes in the intestinal nervous system. Based on this, the team has already established human and murine enteric progenitor cell models, as well as an in vitro model mimicking an enteric nervous system in the cell culture dish. The cell models, some of which are patient-specific, allow not only modeling of the corresponding disease, but also the investigation of molecular mechanisms in an individual genetic context.
The Enteric Nervous System Research Group (AGENS) headed by Prof. Dr. Karl-Herbert Schäfer (Dr. Manuela Gries, M.Sc. Steven Schulte) at Kaiserslautern University of Applied Sciences with the Zweibrücken branch University Campus focuses on the development, adaptation and degeneration of the intestinal nervous system by using different cell culture systems ranging from primary neuronal cultures to neural stem cell cultures of the peripheral and central nervous system. Extensive knowledge and expertise in functional analyses marks the team out.
The different neuronal cell models of the two research groups complement each other perfectly and provide an excellent basis to study disorders of the enteric nervous system on a molecular, as well as on a functional level in vitro.
‘Loss of epithelial layer (LEL)’ cell model
Dr. Jutta Schröder-Braunstein´s research group (Antje Heidtmann) at the Institute of Immunology in Heidelberg focuses on the function of lamina propria-resident immune cells in inflammatory bowel diseases. For this purpose, her team has already successfully established a protocol with which immune cells can be isolated from human intestinal resections and used for further cultivation and analyses: the so-called ‘loss of epithelial layer’ (LEL) model. This allows the standardized investigation of inflammatory responses in lamina propria-resident immune cells.