Our main focus are studies on the immune-mediated tissue damage in autoimmune diseases of the central nervous system (CNS), especially focussing on neuromyelitis optica (NMO), an inflammatory astrocyte-destructive disease of the CNS. Most NMO patients have autoantibodies against the water channel aquaporin 4 (AQP4) in their serum. We could show that these antibodies are pathogenic, and differ in their pathogenic potential between different patients. However, it is still unclear why and how these antibodies are formed and selected. A subset of NMO patients does not have AQP4-specific antibodies. Whether such patients have other pathogenic autoantibodies instead remains unresolved.
To address these issues, we currently use experimental models and cell cultures to study
* T cell and antibody responses against AQP4
* mechanisms of tissue damage in NMO and other inflammatory CNS diseases
* the binding patterns of AQP4 specific antibodies
* antibodies from AQP4 antibody-negative NMO patients
* pathways of tissue destruction in human inflammatory and degenerative CNS diseases and corresponding experimental models (cooperative project with Prof. Hans Lassmann)