Department of Immunology

University of Debrecen

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Introduction
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DEPARTMENT OF IMMUNOLOGY – UNIVERSITY OF DEBRECEN

ACTIVITIES

The University of Debrecen (UD) is the largest Medical School in Hungary, both in patients’ number and in research capacity. The Department of Immunology (II) was established in 2000 and became committed to basic research as well as R&D programs in the field of basic and applied Immunology. The research team of scientists of the Department has been trained in the USA, Sweden and Germany and today presents diverse expertise in molecular and cellular immunology. The Department has a strong background in various fields of Immunology including innate and adaptive immunity with special emphasis on the cross-talk and regulation of dendritic cells (DC) and B- and T-lymphocytes, complemented with stem cell research as focal points of the department's research activities. In the past years the Department has developed important skills in studying the effects of lipids and various metabolites (histamine, retinoic acid, immunomodulatory peptides) on the functions and the mode of action of various danger signals detected by membrane and intracellular sensors and involved in the functional regulation of various DC subsets.

Studying the diverse and multiple functions of DC has remained the primary focus of the Department's research activities. These rare but versatile cells play a crucial role in the regulation of immune processes and also in the functional coordination of cells mediating innate and acquired immunity. Furthermore, these cells have recently become targets of new immunotherapies and thus the investigation of DC functions could closely linked to the development of modern vaccines and to immunomodulatory strategies designed for regulating allergic reactions, pathological immune processes and the modulation of anti-tumor immunity. The current research projects are focusing to dissecting the molecular mechanisms of innate immunity, cellular signalling, and the impact of danger and stimulatory signals on DC and T-cell biology. Molecular immunology of allergy, infectious diseases, autoimmunity and microbiome research are emerging topics of our recent activities.

The research laboratories of the Department are well equipped to perform state-of-the-art experimental work in the field of cellular and molecular immunology. Expertise includes high throughput determination of gene expression and protein profiles (cytokines, chemokines, immunomodulatory proteins and peptides) by relevant arrays and FACS analysis. Special equipments include flow cytometry and cell sorting facility, quantitative real time PCR, and Taqman low density arrays. UD also runs a Genomics Core facilitiy equipped with ABI7900 qRT-PCR, ABI 3100 Avant DNA sequencing instrument, Tecan pipetting robots, MMI UV Cut laser microdissector. TheProteomics Core facility has Nano-HPLC MS-MS, Electronspray MS-MS, MALDI-TOF, BiaCore and an Imaging Core facility readily available for all institutes.

EDUCATION

Since the establishment of the Department, immunology has become an independent subject in the educational program of the University of Debrecen and gives lectures, demonstrations and practices for students in medicine, dentistry, pharmacy, assistants of medical diagnostics and laboratory research, as well as molecular biologists. The teaching activity also covers the organization of elective and PhD courses on selected topics of Immunology. Supervision of university theses and PhD works of these students is also part of the Department's educational assignments. Besides basic research the department also carries out applied research activity and methodological developments.

The Department warrants an interdisciplinary approach and thinking in the training of graduate and PhD students among them foreign students recruited from all over the world. The Department is member of the Research Centre of Molecular Medicine (RCMM), an EU nominated Network of Excellence, it became the associate member of the DC-THERA (Dendritic Cells for Novel Immunotherapies) FP6 program, and of the Cross-Talk Marie-Curie PhD program and participated in the FP7 TORNADO project focusing to the regulatory functions of DC upon interaction with the gut microbiota. With the support of the EEA Norway Grants the Department also contributed to a collaborative stem cell research program currently focusing on the impact of mesenchymal stromal cells on dendritic cell functions. In the framework of a recent collaboration with the Universitatea Sapientia we are also involved in a R&D project entitled Control of dendritic cell functions by anti-inflammatory and cell death signals’.

Staff involved in the work

Eva Rajnavolgyi, PhD, DSc, Professor of Immunology is the Head of the Department of Immunology. She has developed sounded advances in human DC differentiation and function authoring publications in peer-reviewed journals. She also played an instrumental role in the establishment of the Cell Therapy Unit at the Clinical Centre for establishing a DC-based Phase I clinical trial in colorectal carcinoma patients.

Arpad Lanyi, PhD, Associate Professor. His main interest is to understand the role of SLAM family of co-receptor molecules in the communication between dendritic cells and T-cells and how this communication affects the differentiation of naive T-cells into effector cells. Recently he has become interested int he immunological aspects of tumors with the tumor-associated stroma. These projects use a combination of in vitro systems using DC gene transfer, gene silencing followed by analysis of DC functions and tumor models utilizing full KO or tissue- specific KO models.

Attila Bacsi, PhD, Associate Professor has experience in both in vitro and in vivo systems to study the effects of reactive oxygen species (ROS) on the functional activities of DC and epithelial cells, and to investigate the molecular mechanisms of inflammation.

Peter Gogolak has expertise in the phenotypic and functional characterization of DC and T-lymphocyte subsets by a versatile methodological repertoire that involve flow cytometry, cytokine/protein multiplex bead assays and separation of rare cell populations by cell sorting.

Koncz Gábor research fellow, his focus of research has been the study of apoptotoic and non-apoptotic cell death pathways and cytotoxic functions in the immune system, signal transduction of different survival and death receptors.

Attila Szabo is interested in the role of DC subtypes and subsets in inflammatory and anti-viral interferon responses, as well as their contribution to central nervous system immune homeostasis and pathologies.

Kitti Linda Pázmándi, PhD, research assistant is studying the possible effects of oxidative microenviroment and „damage-associated molecular patterns” (DAMPs) generated by inflammatory reactions on the functional properties of human DCs, preferentially on human plasmacytoid DC.

Tünde Fekete is specialized in the antiviral and inflammatory responses of different conventional DC subtypes with particular interest in the signaling pathways regulated by the mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR).