Chantal Kuhn

Hello, my name is Chantal and I’m a citizen of the world. I was born in Germany where I studied (a couple of years later) Molecular Medicine. I spent some time in England, passed my PhD in Immunology in France and finally I arrived on the other side (not necessarily the dark side) of the ocean.

I was definitely meant to be a researcher! I guess my parents had enough “why(s)” for their whole life… At the age of 10 I repeatedly tried to resuscitate dead bees (alas I didn’t succeed and the data is not published). Now I try to cure mice with autoimmune diseases in the prospect to develop therapies for human autoimmune disorders.

Why immunology? To me immunology is the most interesting field of medical science because it refers to the mechanisms discriminating between self and foreign – harmless and dangerous – good and bad! It is in the center of a bunch of topics that include: physiology, cancer, microbiology, virology, allergy, autoimmune diseases, genetics and even metabolism. During my PhD and my first Postdoc in France (in the lab of Lucienne Chatenoud), I studied mechanisms and therapeutic approaches to autoimmune diabetes. I particularly focused on the induction in established diabetes using intravenous administration of CD3 antibodies. I developed a preclinical model for studying human specific CD3 antibodies (that are strictly species specific) in a mouse model expressing the human target molecule of the antibody (human CD3 epsilon chain). I studied the cellular targets and mechanisms involved in CD3 induced tolerance and became particularly interested in the role of antigen presenting cells in maintaining and re-establishing tolerance.

I came to the Weiner lab in order to continue and diversify at the same time my work on tolerance induction in autoimmune diseases. After having worked for a long time on type 1 diabetes I will now get involved in the therapy of multiple sclerosis. Our approach is the induction of oral tolerance. Oral tolerance is a fascinating concept that explains why our body does not mount immune responses against ingested food and our mucosal microflora. We try to harness this physiological mechanism in order to cure autoimmune diseases and my particular interest refers to the role of antigen presenting cells in the induction of oral tolerance. Antigen presenting cells are by definition the cells that recognize, process and present antigen to the rest of our immune system and thus present a major link to understanding the mechanisms underlying the balance between health and disease.