Developing hypersensitivity reactions to molecules of the environment, such as to naturally occurring and otherwise harmless substances in the air and in food, provides the basis for allergic reactions. Allergic diseases are steadily on the rise and while being considered as nuisance disorder over the past decades, they represent now the most common chronic disease in Europe. Beyond the individual disease burden for each patient, substantial socioeconomic costs result from allergic conditions which can be measured, amongst others, by the reduced quality of life of patients and their families, reduced productivity (missed school and work days)as well as in-/direct costs for medical care. Currently, more than 150 million Europeans suffer from an allergic disease and the prevalence is still increasing.
Allergy bears on a multifaceted pathophysiology with patients showing a broad spectrum of clinical pictures, including variable clincial symptoms, variable levels of clinical reactivity, variable atopic comorbidities and variable course of disease. The complexity of the factors involved explains why diagnostic and therapeutic measures still pose a challenge and thus, represent important unmet medical needs.
To unravel the pathophysiological basis and immune mechanism of allergic sensitization as well as clinical allergy, it is vital to develop translational approaches for diagnosis, treatment and prevention of allergies – the latter being clearly a major long-run goal.
Our research focuses on allergen molecules which are key players, both sensitizers and triggers, in allergic reactions. Allergen-based insights address important aspects of the complex multifactorial puzzle.
The knowledge around allergens, their molecular and immunological properties, helps to address mechanisms of allergic sensitization and anaphylaxis, by understanding of how allergens enter the human body, crossing mucosal epithelia and impacting the host microbiome, how they interact with the immune system in order to finally identify advanced biomarkers applicable for the stratification of allergic patients.
The identification, isolation and characterization of allergens is crucial for both diagnosis and therapy of allergic disorders. During the clinical work-up, the use of single allergens in serum IgE-testing allows deeper insights into the disease cause and course, such as to discriminate between genuine sensitization and cross-reactivity as well as to identify potentially mild from severe allergy phenotypes. Serum IgE typing allows as well to identify the patients’ molecular profile, a first step into personalized treatment, and to identify potential responders to available immunotherapies.
We are closely linked to the clinic through our partner, the National Service of Immuno-Allergology at CHL, as well as to a number of clinical and research excellence centers in Europe.