Unit Clinical Allergology (EKA)

Medical background of the project

Allergic diseases such as hay fever or atopic dermatitis (eczema) are very common in industrialized countries. They pose a serious problem for those affected along with their families and cause high socioeconomic costs. Despite major advances in diagnostics and treatment, these diseases remain a major challenge for modern medicine.

The pathogenesis of allergies is highly complex and not yet fully understood. It is assumed today that an individual disposition to develop allergic diseases exists. The risk for developing these diseases then depends above all on the interaction with environmental factors which, in interplay with the surface organs and the immune system, codetermine the decision between "healthy" and "allergic". A disturbed skin barrier as well as the bacterial diversity of the environment and the surface organs can influence the outcome of this discrimination.

The question why some people with a certain skin barrier defect develop atopic dermatitis and others do not is still unanswered. A deciding factor for this could be the individual milieu of microorganisms colonizing the skin. The so-called microbiome exerts a particularly strong effect on the immune system and can thus influence the development of allergies.

Project objective

The objective of the project is to elucidate when and why allergic diseases occur in humans. For this purpose a birth cohort will be established, the "Munich Atopy Prediction Study" (MAPS), in which the interactions and influences of the microbiome, the immune system along with environmental factors (for example food allergens) are investigated in the development of allergic diseases. Two disease models will be used: atopic dermatitis, an inflammatory disease of the skin that impairs its function as a natural barrier to the environment and the development of food allergies in early childhood. By decoding these complex interactions, new approaches for the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of allergies will be discovered.