Institute of Transplant Immunology
Hannover Medical School
Christine Falk is head of the Institute of Transplant Immunology at MHH. Her research focuses on immune regulation in the course of solid organ transplantation, primarily lung, heart and liver transplantation, and with a special interest in ischemia/reperfusion injury in particular. Coming from the cancer filed at the German Cancer Research Center in Heidelberg, she sees tumor and transplant immunology as two sides of the same coin – with the chance on one hand, to learn from solid tumors how they protect themselves from immune recognition and rejection. And on the other hand, the chance to learn from transplanted organs what it takes to reject allografted tissue. In both situations, there are common denominators of rejection, i.e. specialized innate and adaptive immune cells and the cytokine / chemokine network, which orchestrate immune responses and, thus, may provide candidates for therapeutic intervention. The group of C. Falk has established an immunomics portfolio for immune monitoring of solid organ transplant recipients comprising flow cytometry panels for T, B, NK and myeloid cell subsets, multiplex analyses for cytokines, chemokines and angiogenic factors, functional immune assays like ELISpot and intracellular cytokine staining and expression profiling. The complexity of this immune contexture in transplantation is analyzed by advanced statistical methods like unsupervised cluster, principal component and KNN network analyses. These studies are performed in close collaboration with clinical colleagues at MHH and abroad. At present, the group is investigating immunological mechanisms during ex vivo perfusion of lungs and hearts with the aim to understand the tissue response to this novel technique of organ preservation and to identify targets for future therapeutic interventions. In addition, the effects of sex and gender in this specialized lung transplant setting are currently investigated based on the existing data sets.