Targeting Epigenetic Reprogramming of Immune Cells to Identify Novel Strategies for Tuberculosis Prevention 

Tuberculosis (TB) is a chronic lung infection that is one of the major causes of death globally. A yet unexplored observation is that individuals who are constantly exposed to the infection remain healthy.

The aim of my project is to explore whether epigenetically reprogrammed immunity can explain why some individuals are able to control or eliminate tuberculosis. The phenomenon that we are exploring is known as trained immunity and involves altered DNA methylation patterns and modification of histone proteins. We have shown that trained immune cells display an improved capacity to eliminate pathogens, including Mycobacterium tuberculosis that causes tuberculosis.

Within the frame of this project we collect unique mycobacteria-exposed biological materials, ranging from blood cells of individuals vaccinated against tuberculosis to lung immune cells coughed up by tuberculosis patients. We are taking a genome-wide approach to identify patterns in exposed individuals that reflect protection. Further, we are using our models to identify immune-training agents that effectively mimic mycobacteria-specific trained immunity and test them for efficacy agains M. tuberculosis infection.

Understanding the mechanisms behind natural tuberculosis protection would be a major scientific breakthrough that can be implemented to prevent tuberculosis and other infectious diseases, for which a classical vaccine approach has proven ineffective. In an era in which established tools such as antibiotics are gradually becoming ineffective, this project is breaking new ground in the field of infectious disease control. 



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Selected publications

Deepti Verma, Venkata Ramanarao Parasa, Johanna Raffetseder, Mihaela-Maria Martis, Ratnesh Bhai Mehta, Mihai Netea, Maria Lerm (2017)

Scientific Reports , Vol.7 Continue to DOI

Maria Lerm, M. G. Netea (2016)

Journal of Internal Medicine , Vol.279 , s.337-346 Continue to DOI

Daniel Eklund, Anett Welin, H Andersson, Deepti Verma, Peter Söderkvist, Olle Stendahl, E Särndahl, Maria Lerm (2014)

Journal of Infectious Diseases , Vol.209 , s.749-753 Continue to DOI


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About me
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Medical Programme

Biomedical Laboratory Science Programme

Experimental and Industrial Biomedicine


Adjunct Editor, Journal of Internal Medicine

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