Infectious diseases and autoimmune or rheumatic disorders represent enormous medical and economic burdens to society. Common features of such inflammatory processes include their complexity and the frequent involvement of multiple organ systems. New strategies for therapy are urgently needed: Antibiotic therapy for infection is becoming increasingly restricted mainly due to the development of pathogen resistance, therapy against autoimmune and rheumatic diseases is still limited to mainly arbitrary suppression of inflammatory cytokines. Central to both infectious and inflammatory diseases are cellular barriers which, in physiological conditions, act to restrict pathogen entry and regulate immune cell surveillance of tissues. Uncontrolled breaching of such barriers is therefore fundamental to both infectious diseases as well as autoimmune and rheumatic disorders.
This highlights the potential of targeting components of cellular barriers for future diagnostic, therapeutic or preventive strategies. Molecular and cellular mechanisms underlying leukocyte interactions with epithelial and endothelial cells have been very successfully investigated by various research groups in Münster for more than a decade. This has led to significant strength in the field of inflammation research at the Medical Faculty but also in the life sciences. A parallel development of internationally recognized research on important bacterial and viral pathogens, now results in a. unique possibility to combine these expertise into a new Collaborative Research Center (SFB) to address fundamental questions concerning barrier function and basic mechanisms of barrier penetration by immune cells or pathogens, as well as the interplay between them. Research within the planned SFB is organized into two project areas focusing on integrity and cellular penetration of barriers (area A), and cellular barriers as targets for infection and immune processes (area B).