Petra Bacher

Why this profession?

During my PhD work, we developed tools to analyze human antigen-specific CD4+ T cells, orchestrating protective but also pathogenic immune responses. The immune system has a fascinating capacity to mount completely different types of reactions against the various different types of antigens the human body is confronted with. We want to understand, how these different responses are regulated on the level of the antigen-specific T cells and how dysregulated T cell responses against a particular antigen can contribute to pathology, as it is the case for example in inflammatory bowel diseases, allergy or uncontrolled infections. We have now the tools to study these fundamental processes directly in cells from the human immune system. This will significantly advance the understanding of basic mechanisms underlying human immune-mediated diseases and speed up the development of new diagnostic as well as therapeutic strategies.

Why RTG Genes, Environment and Inflammation?

I am particular interested in how tolerance against usually harmless antigens, like commensals or food is generated. We want to understand against which antigens and by which mechanisms tolerogenic T cell responses are formed and identify how this tolerance can be broken, as it is the case for typically harmless microbes in inflammatory bowel diseases. The RTG integrates research on genetic susceptibility and the environmental mechanisms that lead to disease manifestations. Thus the RTG provides an excellent research environment by providing different expertise needed to investigate the interaction between environmental factors and microbial and inflammatory processes that lead to dysfunctions and intestinal tissue inflammation.