RTG 2633/1 "Autoimmune Pre-Disease"

Defining and Targeting Autoimmune Pre-Disease
Autoimmune diseases are a major clinical burden, affecting 4-5% of the population. Importantly, causative treatment is not possible, often requiring live-long immunosuppressive treatment. While treatment is only applied upon clinical disease manifestation, autoimmune diseases develop over years - starting from the loss of tolerance towards self (autoimmunity), which, upon so far unknown trigger factors, may progress to clinically overt autoimmune disease. Unlike in cancer, for which screening for and treatment of pre-disease prevents dis-ease progression, screening for autoimmune pre-disease is far from clinical routine in autoimmune diseases due to the lack of definite biomarkers. However, if sensitive and specific biomarkers for future autoimmune disease could be identified, the clinical manifestations of the disease might be prevented by avoiding environmental factors that trigger disease or by use of therapy that modulates the destructive process before onset of clinical symptoms. Thus, defining and targeting autoimmune pre-disease is the central, and so far, mainly unaddressed, scientific question of this Research Training Group (RTG). The University of Lübeck (UzL) has 3 major research foci. Among these, are “Infection and Inflammation” and “Brain, Behavior and Metabolism”. The RTG “Autoimmune Pre-Disease” builds on and will strengthen the expertise of those 2 research foci because defining modulators of autoimmune pre-disease requires expertise in autoimmunity, sleep, as well as nutrition. Through a long-standing track recorded in collaborative research funded at UzL (e.g. the Clusters of Excellence “Inflammation at Interfaces” and “Precision Medicine in Inflammation”, 4 RTGs and 2 Clinical Research Units), the principal investigators of this RTG have an in-depth expertise in either autoimmune diseases, sleep, or nutrition. Thus, the UzL is ideal to address the central scientific question of the RTG “Autoimmune Pre-Disease”. The RTG is also well-embedded in structures to ensure a timely and coordinated graduation. This includes the Center for Doctoral Studies Lübeck (CDSL) that provides structured training in practical- and soft-skills for all doctoral candidates, a mentoring program, and ultimately, also the track record of the principal investigators of the RTG in post-graduate education. With the establishment of the RTG “Autoimmune Pre-Disease”, we aim to continue and build an environment at UzL for an internationally attractive, structured education of doctoral candidates in the field of translational research in autoimmunity. This generation of translational scientists and clinician scientists will then direct future research in the field and in the future improve patient care by implementing preventive measures.