Like a classical sensory system, the innate immune system possesses an elaborate receptor interface to sense and discriminate a large variety of stimuli. We like to view the innate immune system as an immune sensory organ with its diverse immune sensing receptors, since this term lives up to the capacity of the innate immune system to sense its environment. Downstream of immune sensing receptor ligation, multiple layers of information processing and ‘decision making’ operate to finally recognize patterns of danger or damage, and to subsequently trigger the appropriate effector functions. Therefore, we prefer to use the term immune sensing for the detection of ligands on the receptor level, while the term pattern recognition includes downstream processing events. We have also come to realize that the dysregulation of the immune sensing system has a strong impact on many prevalent diseases in Western societies, such as atherosclerosis, metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, neurodegeneration and cancer. Hence, there is a clear need to gain further mechanistic insights into the regulation of immune activation and to identify novel approaches for pharmacological interference.
Scientific Program ImmunoSensation2
The scientific program of ImmunoSensation2 is designed to address key challenges in immunology, with an emphasis on innate immunity. While immune sensing is the common basis of all levels of an immune reaction and thus remains an important overarching topic of the scientific program, our goal now is to apply our current knowledge of the immune sensory system to the functional circuits that connect immune sensing, response, resolution, adaptation and memory.
We postulate that these functional immune circuits form the basis of intelligent immune decisions and that their dysregulation contributes to immune-mediated disorders. Moreover, we hypothesize that functional immune circuits are an integral part of a network topology of the immune system. The research program with its specific research areas and topics has been selected to fill in some of the most important gaps of the proposed network topology of the immune system.
However, all five programs together represent a truly collaborative approach of the applicants and the associated scientists, with every PI substantially contributing to more than one topic, and integrating additional contributing scientists as indicated, emphasizing the high degree of interdisciplinarity within the cluster. Moreover, within the different research areas of each program, tailored combinations of advanced collaborative approaches are used to address specific scientific questions.