The main aim of our research is to understand mechanisms regulating cholangitis with a clear focus on immunology but also now incorporating aspects of regenerative medicine. In addition to the cholangitis focused studies, we are also doing basic research related to the function natural killer T-cells, mucosal associated invariant T (MAIT)-cells and other immune subsets. NKT and MAIT cells represents unconventional T-cells that are especially interesting in the context of liver diseases since they are abundantly present in the liver. The ultimate goal of our research is to understand the pathology of and uncover potential novel treatment target for PSC.
The mouse models we use are immune driven which is in concordance with the leading theories on PSC pathogenesis. In 2018, we demonstrated for the first time that NKT cells can drive experimental cholangitis that can be treated by monoclonal antibodies. These results corroborate our earlier results on the role of cholangiocytes as antigen-presenting cells. As part of a collaboration with our guest professor Frank Tacke from Aachen Anna Frank worked in the group as a visiting PhD student during 2018. As part of her project she established protocols for generating biliary organoids from both murine livers, human livers and brush samples acquired during ERCP. These techniques are now being used in studies aiming to understand PSC cholangiocyte biology as well as the role of the cholangiocyte in immunology.