30 August 2022

Hanna Niehues, Postdoc at the Experimental Dermatology lab received an Off Road Grant for her proposal "EpiCenter-Epithelial antifungal proteins are central to IL-17 immunodeficiencies".

The skin is our first-line defense against harmful environmental factors, including disease-causing bacteria and fungi. For this, the skin is equipped with cells (keratinocytes) that can produce the skin's own antibiotics (antimicrobial proteins). Frequent and severe fungal infections of the skin and oral cavity, such as in chronic mucocutaneous candidiasis (CMC), are considered a primary immune system disorder. The role of the skin, and specifically that of keratinocytes, has been underexposed and therefore undervalued in this disease.

Hanna believes that it is precisely in these skin cells that the production of the antimicrobial proteins is disrupted, so that there is insufficient protection against fungal growth. Together with her colleagues, she aims to elucidate the role of keratinocytes in the development of fungal infections with innovative tissue culture models. Improved treatment methods that specifically target the cells in the epicenter of the disease, namely the epithelium, are on the horizon.

Off Road grants

The ZonMw Off Road grant enables talented young (bio)medical and health care researchers to achieve new insights and unexpected breakthroughs. The awarded projects are fundamental, have a high risk profile and are not on the paved paths of research.

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