Cluster of Excellence –
University of Freiburg

The Schamel Group

Our body is constantly attacked by microorganisms, such as bacteria, viruses or parasites.  To combat these invaders, we possess the immune system. One important immune cell is the T cell. It recognizes foreign antigens and initiates an immune response against infected cells which present these antigens. Thus, T cells are indispensable for our health. In addition T cells can recognize and eliminate tumour cells. Besides these positive functions, the T cells can also be activated by mistake, evoking autoimmune diseases and allergies. To improve therapies against these diseases and infections a better understanding of the molecular mechanisms that govern T cell activation is required.

Our lab employs biochemistry, synthetic biology and systems biology approaches to understand how T cells are activated by foreign antigens and how these cells can distinguish between infected, dangerous cells on one hand and healthy, useful cells on the other hand. The main focus are the proteins and protein complexes that govern the very early steps of T cell activation, such as the T cell antigen receptor (TCR-CD3) and its associated signalling proteins. Thus, we are interested in the molecular mechanisms of early T cell activation and how this knowledge can be used for treatments of human diseases. Mouse models, cultured human and mouse cell lines as well as primary cells from healthy human donors or patients are the basis of the projects.

Each researcher in the lab pursues a clearly defined project; however, great emphasis is placed on the synergies that can be realised through small teams of researchers working together. Constant personal supervision by the group leaders and postdocs and weekly lab meetings guarantee discussion of the newest results.

The research in our lab is partitioned into the following projects: TCR nanoclustering, CD3 conformational change, immunodeficiencies, Kidins220, Immuno Cancer Therapy.