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PhD Position (m/f)

The University Hospital Heidelberg is one of the major healthcare centers in Germany. Our objective is the development of innovative diagnostics and therapies as well as their quick implementation for the patient. With about 10,000 employees in more than 50 specialized clinical departments with roughly 1,900 beds, about 66,000 patients in part-time and full-time inpatient treatment as well as 1,000,000 patients in ambulant treatment are medicated each year.

The Department of Dermatology is offering one

PhD Position (m/f)

Project supervisor: Schäkel, Knut

Application deadline: 15 April 2016

Start of PhD project: 01 May 2016

Title: Functional specialization of proinflammatory dermal dendritic cells in psoriasis

Psoriasis is a common chronic inflammatory skin disease. The clinical picture results from hyperproliferative epidermal keratinocytes, a dense leukocyte infiltrate in the skin, and dermal hypervascularization. The local immune response of chronic psoriasis is dominated by dendritic cells (DC) producing TNF-a, IL-23 and IL-12, thereby stimulating an IL-17- and IFN-g- dominated immune response mediated by Th17/Th1 T cells and neutrophils. The outstanding therapeutic success of monoclonal antibodies targeting TNFa, IL-12/IL-23 and IL-17 is in support of this general concept.

DC are regarded as key proximal cells in the pathogenesis of psoriasis. Unraveling the details of DC function in psoriasis is important for our understanding of this disease and opens new therapeutic possibilities of immunomodulation for psoriasis and possibly also for other Th17- mediated diseases. We have established evidence that 6-sulfoLacNAc expressing DC (slanDC) are a candidate DC to orchestrate psoriasis. Therefore, the goal of this project is to unravel the specific role and functional specialization of slanDC in psoriasis skin lesions.

Thus the PhD candidate will study the in vivo role of slanDC in skin inflammation by transplantation of human skin on mice. In a model of transplanting active psoriasis skin lesions and depletion of slanDC will address the role of slanDC as an orchestrator of an ongoing skin inflammation. In a second model, in which psoriasis develops from transplanted non-lesional skin, he/she will demonstrate the role of slanDC for the development of psoriasis. Immunohistochemical studies will be used to understand the interplay of slanDC with the structures of the dermal compartment of the skin and immune cells.

For more information on our group, see:

Hänsel A, Günther C, Baran W, Bidier M, Lorenz HM, Schmitz M, Bachmann M, Döbel T, Enk AH, Schäkel K: Human 6-sulfo LacNAc (slan) dendritic cells have molecular and functional features of an important pro-inflammatory cell type in lupus erythematosus. J Autoimmun. 2013 (40) 1-8.

Hänsel A, Günther C, Ingwersen J, Starke J, Schmitz M, Bachmann M, Meurer M, Rieber EP, Schäkel K: Human slan (6-sulfo LacNAc) dendritic cells are inflammatory dermal dendritic cells in psoriasis and drive strong TH 17/TH 1 T-cell responses. J. Allergy Clin. Immunol. 2011 (127) 787-794.

Schäkel, K., K.M.von, A.Hänsel, A.Ebling, L.Schulze, M.Haase, C.Semmler, M.Sarfati, A.N.Barclay, G.J.Randolph, M.Meurer, and E.P.Rieber. 2006. Human 6-sulfo LacNAc-expressing dendritic cells are principal producers of early interleukin-12 and are controlled by erythrocytes. Immunity. 24:767-777.

Methods that will be used:
Human skin grafting on immunodeficient NSG mice, immunohistochemistry, isolation of blood human cells, cell culture, FACS, immunofluorescence, ELISA, etc.

Keywords: psoriasis, mouse xenograft model, immunohistochemistry

Personal qualifications:
Successful candidates are expected to be highly motivated and passionate for pursuing academic careers, have a diploma/master's degree in life sciences. Candidates must have a strong background in immunology. The ideal candidate should be willing to work with animal models. He/she should be able to work independently as well as in a team, be well organized and have excellent written and spoken English skills. PhD students will be encouraged to present data at internal and external meetings.

More information for application:

Universitätsklinikum Heidelberg
Prof. Dr. med. Knut Schäkel

We stand for equal opportunities for women and men. Severely handicapped with the same eligibility will be given priority.

How to apply:
More information for application:
Send application to
Universitätsklinikum Heidelberg
Prof. Dr. med. Knut Schäkel
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About Universitätsklinikum Heidelberg

Das Universitätsklinikum Heidelberg ist eines der bedeutendsten medizinischen Zentren in Deutschland und steht für die Entwicklung innovativer Diagnostik und Therapien sowie ihre rasche Umsetzung für den Patienten. Mit rund 10.000 Mitarbeiterinnen und Mitarbeitern in mehr als 50 klinischen Fachabteilungen mit ca. 1.900 Betten werden jährlich rund 66.000 Patienten voll- bzw. teilstationär und...

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