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Sepsis research at Septomics: Multidisciplinary, Complementary and Translational

Currently, three Septomics research groups investigate the pathogenesis and molecular mechanisms of sepsis.

C. albicans - growth test

Fungal Septomics, headed by Prof. Oliver Kurzai primarily focuses on sepsis caused by fungal pathogens. Fungal sepsis has increased dramatically in recent years, now accounting for approximately 5-10% of sepsis cases and is associated with an increased mortality. Mainly concentrating on the most common fungal human pathogens, Candida albicans and Aspergillus fumigatus, Fungal Septomics investigates under which circumstances fungal sepsis can develop and how the human immune system reacts to fungal pathogens. The basic science projects of Fungal Septomics are accompanied by a European multicenter study on genetic risk factors for fungal infections coordinated by Prof. Kurzai.

Figure: Generating genetically modified organisms is an important technology for Fungal Septomics. Here we show mutant strains of Candida albicans (bottom four rows) that show significantly reduced growth compared to the unmodified wildtype strain (upper row). Such growth deficiencies can give a hint towards the function of the mutated genes.

Scanning electron microscope image of human neutrophil granulocytes

The Host Septomics group headed by Prof. Dr. Hortense Slevogt investigates the immune response in the pathogenesis of sepsis. The actual course of immune activation and its deregulation have the potential to cause tissue damage which greatly influences the course of sepsis. An important objective of Host Septomics is to identify the mechanisms of how sepsis pathogens interact with the human immune system on molecular and cellular levels. In this context, the group focuses on the endogenous signal substances - so called alamins - that are released during tissue damage and their interacting role with the immune system.

Figure: Neutrophil granulocytes (here 5000-fold enlarged under a scanning electron microscope) are the most common white blood cells. They are categorized as phagocytes and belong to the non-specific immune system. Neutrophil granulocytes circulate in the blood stream. During infection they move to the infection site, incorporate (phagocyte) the pathogens and digest them.

Sample collection for analysis

The clinical research group Clinical Septomics funded by the Thuringian Ministry of Education, Science and Culture completes the Septomics research center and emphasizes the translational aspect. The group is headed by Prof. Frank Martin Brunkhorst (Endowed Paul-Martini-Professor for Clinical Sepsis Research). The group's main task is to improve the clinical management of sepsis patients by conceptualizing and carrying out high quality clinical studies. Moreover, the group coordinates the collection of clinical data and patient samples for cellular or microbiological tests and reviews research findings with regard to their potential clinical benefit.
Figure: Patient samples are anonymized and labeled with a barcode. Thus, results from scientific investigations can afterwards be matched with clincal data.

Figure: Patient samples are anonymized and labeled with a barcode. This process allows results from scientific investigations to be matched with clinical data afterwards.

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