The GIGA-Inflammation, Infection & Immunity (GIGA-I3) research unit is composed of 10 laboratories that study various but complementary aspects of immunity. The 10 laboratories of the GIGA-I3, independently of each other, carry research in varied fields of immunology. Nevertheless, 4 research themes are particularly explored and give rise to numerous collaborations within the GIGA-I3. These research themes are inflammation, hematology, virology and immunoendocrinology. During the year 2016, members of the GIGA-I3 produced or contributed to about 100 significant scientific publications.
The cellular and molecular mechanisms implicated in inflammation, and particularly in chronic inflammation, are extensively studied in the GIGA-I3. The GIGA-I3 laboratories mainly focus their research on the most common inflammatory lung diseases, namely asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), on persistent inflammatory joint diseases and on obesity-linked inflammation.
The GIGA-I3 is also involved in clinical studies and translational research in the field of hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT). In this context, the GIGA I3 aims at optimizing HSCT but also evaluates the consequences of HSCT on the immune system.
The GIGA-I3 pays particular attention to the study of viral diseases. The GIGA-I3 indeed investigates the role and the regulation of Varicella-Zoster Virus (VZV) proteins, develops humanized murine models for rapid and large scale screening of anti-HIV responses to new immunostimulatory approaches, and takes advantage of a research model, the uterine cervical cancer associated with infection by the human papillomavirus (HPV), to study the role of natural immunity (NK cells and TCRγδ) in anti-tumor and anti-viral responses.
Finally, the GIGA-I3 is particularly involved in research aimed at identifying the relationships between the immune and endocrine systems. In this context, the GIGA-I3 studies thymic IGF-2 in programming central self-tolerance to pancreatic islet β cells, the role of the GH/IGF-1 axis on thymic function and T-cell development and implantation/tolerance of the embryo.
In a study published today in the journal Nature Immunology, Belgian researchers from the universities of Liège and Ghent (ULiège and UGent) have, for the first time, proven that infecting laboratory mice with a gammaherpesvirus, herpesvirus murin 4 or MuHV-4, protects the latter from developing allergic asthma. This study is the first to prove the crucial role that some viral infections can play in the long-term control of the development of allergic responses.