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Dr. Maria Dinkelacker

Research Interest, Publications and Teaching

Research Interest:

My main focus of research is the role of the Immune System in cancer. The tumor microenvironment plays a critical role in attracting immune cells to the cancer. Especially single cell data analysis is a good tool to study this interaction of immune cells and the tumor development. New advances such as immune checkpoint inhibitor treatment can only work in a healthy environment, where the tumor does not escape the immune system, by down regulating for example MHC molecules and the microenvironment does not attract the wrong type of immune cells.

It has been shown that the innate immune system does actually sustain the cancer development, while the adaptive immune system is mostly helping to defend the body against cancer. Immune suppressed patients clearly show an significantly elevated risk to develop cancer, which shows us, that the role of the immune system in cancer is most important.

Intracellular signalling in the immune system is done by chemokine and cytokine signalling events, also by factors, such as cytokines, toll like receptors and the presentation of tumor antigens on self-MHC. The first steps of tumor vaccination with cancer testis antigens (CTAs) have been tested. It has been forgotten however in this case, that the establishment of central-self tolerance via tissue-restricted antigens (TRAs) in order to establish a tolerance of T cells versus the body self, plays a most critical role in the prevention of vaccination against CTAs.

Since I studied "Chromosomal clustering of tissue-restricted antigens" during my PhD I could find several thousands of TRAs in the context of autoimmune diseases. These TRAs have been annotated and put into a database of tissue-restricted antigens (TRA-DB) and can be helpful to find new drug targets both in autoimmune diseases as well as in the context of cancer immunotherapy with potential cancer-testis antigens (CTAs).

Autoimmunity might be a side effect of immunotherapy in cancer and are illnesses which can almost not be treated nor diagnosed at the moment. We have identified several thousand candidate genes, in tissue-specific autoimmune diseases, such as diabetes type-1 (TDM1), multiple sclerosis (MS), graves disease, hashimoto thyroiditis, addison's disease and many more. Currently we are trying to validate these candidate genes and develope diagnostic chips for autoimmune diseases.

Undertanding the immune system is one of the most interesting and demanding questions in science and has been my dream to study ever, since I have been a child. We are using multipe bioinformatical tools and datasets, from microarray data, RNAseq data, nanostring data to single cell data, which we mostly process in the statistical programming language R.

Publications and conference preceedings:

• Chromosomal clustering of tissue-restricted antigens, PhD thesis (2019)
• GCB, 2019, German Conference on Bioinformatics, poster (2019)
• ICSB 2011, 12th International Conference on System Biology, poster (2011)
• ISMB/ECCB, Conference, Vienna, poster (2011)
• SBHD, Systems Biology of Human Disease, Conference, Boston, poster (2011)
• 3rd Annual Meeting of NGFN-Plus and NGFN-Transfer in the Program of Medical Genome Reserach, Poster: "Prediction of MHC II loading of tissue restricted antigens" (2010)
• ECCB10, 9th European Conference on Computational Biology, Ghent, Belgium, Poster: "Expression and chromosomal clustering of tissue-restricted antigens" (2010)
• 1st Cellular Networks Conference, CNC 2010, Heidelberg, Poster: "Prediction MHC II loading of tissue-restricted antigens" (2010)
• Annual Meeting of the Society of Virology, Heidelberg, poster (2008)
• NGFN SMP Bioinformatics, "From Bioinformatics to Medical Systems Biology", Poster and Talk: "Expression and Chromosomal clustering of tissue-restricted antigens" (2007)
• Establishing a database of tissue-restricted antigens, Diploma thesis (2007)

Teaching activity:

WS 2019/20

Programming course with R in Immunological Bioinformatics, Tumor Immunology - Biotechnologists

Seminar in Immunological Bioinformatics and Tumor Immunology - Biotechnologists

Introduction into Latex, writing your thesis in Latex - Biotechnologists

Programming course for biologists in R - Biologists

SS 2020

Autoimmunity, central self-tolerance and tumor immunotherapy (online course) - Biotechnologists

Seminar in Immunological Bioinformatics and Tumor Immunology (online course) - Medical Faculty

Programming course with R in Immunological Bioinformatics, Tumor Immunology (online course) - Medical Faculty

Interdisciplinary cooperations as well as interested students are always welcome.

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