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Our research group employs a translational approach to investigate diseases in which the immune system plays a pathogenetic role. By this means we have generated knowledge and established model systems that are often applied directly in the diagnosis or treatment of immunological diseases. This combination of (viral) immunological expertise and our previous infrastructure is crucial for the quick and successful implementation of our knowledge in COVID-19 diagnostics and management.

In addition to establishing immunological tests for the assessment of specific anti-SARS-CoV-2 immunity, we have gained new insights into the immunopathogenic mechanisms of COVID-19. In addition, we have investigated extensively the effects of COVID-19 on the organism and the immunity of immunosuppressed and/or chronically ill patients. In this context, we identified a potential biomarker for the prediction of acute respiratory distress syndrome during COVID-19. In addition to their important diagnostic value, our research results have already been employed for the improvement of clinical treatment, especially of transplant patients.

The most important research areas of our group include:

  • Determination of the role of immune cells in the protection against infections (currently also COVID-19)
  • Study of the function of humoral and cellular immunity in the event of transplant rejection
  • Prediction of adverse immune reactions
  • Identification of prognostic markers for the disease course
  • Development of human in vitro model systems for therapy prediction and drug testing
  • Supervision of clinical studies to research immune-related pathologies – including common diseases such as osteoporosis and atherosclerosis



  • Robust T Cell Response Toward Spike, Membrane, and Nucleocapsid SARS-CoV-2 Proteins Is Not Associated with Recovery in Critical COVID-19 Patients. Thieme CJ, et al. Cell Rep Med. 2020 Sep 22; 1(6): 100092. doi: 10.1016/j.xcrm.2020.100092 An analysis of the T cell immune response against three different SARS-CoV-2 antigens. We found no evidence of a positive effect of these immune responses on disease outcome.
  • Human Anti-fungal Th17 Immunity and Pathology Rely on Cross-Reactivity against Candida albicans. Bacher P, et al. Cell. 2019 Mar 7;176(6):1340-1355.e15.  doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2019.01.041 Here we identify the immune response against the ubiquitous yeast Candida albicans as a mechanism for induction of Th17 cells and a risk factor for pulmonary inflammatory disease.
  • The TreaT-Assay: A Novel Urine-Derived Donor Kidney Cell-Based Assay for Prediction of Kidney Transplantation Outcome. Thieme CJ, et al. Sci Rep. 2019 Dec 13;9(1):19037. doi: 10.1038/s41598-019-55442-x Here we describe an human model system for the prediction of rejection, employing urine samples taken before and after renal transplantation.
  • BK polyomavirus infection and nephropathy: the virus-immune system interplay. Babel N, Volk HD, Reinke P. Nat Rev Nephrol. 2011 May 24;7(7):399-406. doi: 10.1038/nrneph.2011.59 Comprehensive review about the challenges presented by BK virus infections after renal transplantation.
  • BKV, CMV, and EBV Interactions and their Effect on Graft Function One Year Post-Renal Transplantation: Results from a Large Multi-Centre Study. Blazquez-Navarro A, et al. EBioMedicine. 2018 Aug;34:113-121. doi: 10.1016/j.ebiom.2018.07.017 Results of a large, multi-centre study on the interactions between post-transplant viral infections and their influence on renal function.
  • The Role of Pre-existing Cross-Reactive Central Memory CD4 T-Cells in Vaccination With Previously Unseen Influenza Strains. Nienen M, et al. Front Immunol. 2019 Apr 4;10:593. doi: 10.3389/fimmu.2019.00593 Analysis of the cellular and humoral immune response after vaccination with a new Influenza strain. We identified the cross-reactivity with pre-existing T memory cells as a decisive factor for a positive vaccination outcome.
  • The Identity Card of T Cells-Clinical Utility of T-cell Receptor Repertoire Analysis in Transplantation. Babel N, Stervbo U, Reinke P, Volk HD. Transplantation. 2019 Aug;103(8):1544-1555. doi: 10.1097/TP.0000000000002776 A review on the potential applications of sequencing the T cell receptor repertoire for the monitoring of transplant recipients.

List of previously published work on COVID-19:

  • Stervbo U, Rahmann S, Roch T, Westhoff TH, Babel N. Epitope similarity cannot explain the pre-formed T cell immunity towards structural SARS-CoV-2 proteins. Science Rep 2020 Nov 4;10(1):18995; https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-75
  • Anft M, Paniskaki K, Blazquez-Navarro A, Doevelaar AAN, Seibert FS et al. COVID-19-induced ARDS is associated with decreased frequency of activated memory/effector T cells expressing tissue migration molecule CD11a++. www.cell.com/molecular-therapy-family/molecular-therapy/fulltext/S1525-0016(20)30535-9
  • Zgoura P, Seibert FS, Waldecker C, Doevelaar A, et al. Psychological Responses to the Coronavirus Disease 2019 Pandemic in Renal Transplant Recipients. Transplant Proc. 2020 Sep 3:S0041-1345(20)32710-X. doi: 10.1016/j.transproceed.2020.08.043. Online ahead of print.
  • Westmeier J, Paniskaki K, Karaköse Z, Werner T, et al. Impaired Cytotoxic CD8+ T Cell Response in Elderly COVID-19 Patients.  mBio. 2020 Sep 18;11(5):e02243-20. doi: 10.1128/mBio.02243-20.
  • Thieme CJ, Anft M, Paniskaki K, Blazquez-Navarro A, et al. Robust T Cell Response Toward Spike, Membrane, and Nucleocapsid SARS-CoV-2 Proteins Is Not Associated with Recovery in Critical COVID-19 Patients.  Cell Rep Med. 2020 Sep 22;1(6):100092. doi: 10.1016/j.xcrm.2020.100092. Epub 2020 Aug 29.
  • Doevelaar AAN, Hölzer B, Seibert FS, Bauer F, et al. Lessons for the clinical nephrologist: recurrence of nephrotic syndrome induced by SARS-CoV-2.  J Nephrol. 2020 Sep 5:1-4. doi: 10.1007/s40620-020-00855-5. Online ahead of print.
  • Seidel M, Hölzer B, Appel H, Babel N, Westhoff TH; Impact of renal disease and comorbidities on mortality in hemodialysis patients with COVID-19: a multicenter experience from Germany.  COVID Dialysis Working Group. J Nephrol. 2020 Aug 17:1-4. doi: 10.1007/s40620-020-00828-8. Online ahead of print.
  • Babel N, Anft M, Blazquez-Navarro A, Doevelaar AAN, et al. Immune monitoring facilitates the clinical decision in multifocal COVID-19 of a pancreas-kidney transplant patient.  Am J Transplant. 2020 Aug 10:10.1111/ajt.16252. doi: 10.1111/ajt.16252. Online ahead of print.
  • Westhoff TH, Seibert FS, Bauer F, Stervbo U, Anft M, et al. Allograft infiltration and meningoencephalitis by SARS-CoV-2 in a pancreas-kidney transplant recipient. Am J Transplant. 2020 Jul 26. doi: 10.1111/ajt.16223. Online ahead of print.