Inauguration Mangala Srinivas: “We need non-invasive techniques to study moving cells in the body”

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“Non-invasive imaging, at a functional, molecular and anatomical level, will help us better understand cellular (immune) function in a range of animal and plant species,” said Mangala Srinivas in her inaugural lecture as a professor. and Chair of Cell Biology and Immunology at Wageningen University & Research on July 7. Other key points of his lecture were the chemistry of imaging agents and the need for scientists to feel – and act accordingly – a sense of responsibility towards future generations.

The recent pandemic has turned us all into “living room immunologists”. While it has clearly shown how essential and amazing our immune system is, the pandemic has also highlighted how little we know about how our immune system works.

New discoveries

In her inaugural lecture, Professor Srinivas explained the key players in the immune system and presented new findings that can be used to generate a better understanding of immune cell function in vivo. The main players in the immune system that she focused on were dendritic cells, T cells and macrophages. Dendritic cells are antigen-presenting cells that can act as messengers between the innate and adaptive immune systems. They can activate effector cells, such as T cells, when they detect “suspicious” antigens in the body. Macrophages are phagocytic cells that can engulf and digest infected cells or bacteria.

Research into tracking cell migration has become increasingly important, both for understanding biological processes at a fundamental level and for manipulating immune cells as a form of therapy. Trafficking of immune cells, in particular, is essential both for their function and in new advanced therapies, such as cell-based cancer therapies using engineered immune cells or for drugs such as checkpoint inhibitors .

Non-invasive in vivo imaging

We often lack a mechanistic understanding of the complex processes around cell function in vivo. The use of non-invasive imaging to study cell populations is therefore necessary. At Wageningen University & Research in particular, with its uniquely wide range of animal and plant species, non-invasive imaging can really come into its own.

Professor Srinivas also highlighted the multidisciplinary nature of CBI’s research and stressed the importance of establishing new collaborations. Srinivas: “Imaging for cell tracking encompasses several areas: our research and teaching programs cover broad areas of immunology, and we actively seek to establish new collaborations and strengthen existing ones.”

Immunology in the spotlight

From an academic perspective, the pandemic has put immunology in the spotlight. Still, if the functioning of the immune system remains mysterious, and we are constantly learning new things about it, research will continue in the years to come. In order to develop the necessary expertise in this area, CBI researchers will work closely with other WUR groups and various stakeholders.

Mangala Srinivas’ ambition is to better understand the immune system using non-invasive techniques, while being a responsible scientist and mentor. For her, this means “combining research with the responsibility to improve the situation of future scientists”. In collaboration with the Wageningen Young Academy and the Young Academy of Europe, it aims to address complex issues such as open science, rewards and recognition, diversity and inclusion, and fundamental research versus applied research. , in order to pursue equity in academia.

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