Researcher of the Month: Dr. Stefanie Kirchberger
How did you get interested to work in Fiona Powrie´s lab? I did my PhD in Vienna, where I worked on human rhinovirus, the virus responsible for colds, and how this virus evades a productive immune response.
During this work I got more and more interested in tolerance and here the intestine is an especially exciting place to look at, as there are tons of food antigens present. At this time Fiona´s lab had just published a paper on how dendritic cells are involved in tolerance in the gut.
Q: What are you working on?
Interestingly, when I came to Fiona´s lab she just got involved in a big EU-FP7 project on cancer and inflammation. So when I arrived in the lab in 2008 I started to work on an in vivo model of inflammation-driven cancer using the bacterium Helicobacter hepaticus. Together with a colleague we looked at genes involved in an increased susceptibility to this disease.
Later we also found a role for the inflammatory messenger Interleukin-22 in sustaining cancer in this model and when we targeted this molecule we could stop cancer in these animals.
Q: What do you really like about working in the lab?
I really like the international environment in our lab, you meet lots of nice people from around the world. The work brings something new every day and gives you the chance to develop your own ideas. More recently the lab also becomes more and more involved in translational research. So maybe some of our work could in the long run help patients, which would be certainly very important!