Regulation of adaptive immunity


Group Leader

Georgia Fousteri


Our team studies the mechanisms that control autoimmunity. We investigate the genetic and cellular factors that set the immune system in equilibrium. We also develop innovative approaches to promote tolerance in patients with type 1 diabetes (T1D) by genetically engineering regulatory T cells (Treg). 

Research activity

We aim at:

  1. Deciphering the genetic secrets of T1D for better disease diagnosis and prediction. Our group employs cutting-edge technologies to identify possible genetic changes in T1D, to help diagnose the disease more accurately and improve its prediction. Our objective is to understand how some of these changes affect the immune system and the function of insulin-producing cells.
  2. Understanding islet-specific autoantibody pathogenesis in T1D. Our goal is to understand the process of generating islet-specific autoantibodies in patients with T1D. We study two populations of cells, follicular helper (Tfh) and follicular regulatory (Tfr) CD4 T cells that are uniquely specialized in providing B-cell help and regulating this process, respectively. 
  3. Immune therapy with regulatory T cells to establish tolerance in T1D. Adoptive cell therapy with Treg cells stands out as one of the most promising therapeutic strategies to treat autoimmunity. In collaboration with Prof Chiara Bonini from San Raffaele and Prof Todd Brusko of the University of Florida, we aim to create a new class of antigen-specific Treg cells that would combat the activation of B cells.
  4. Primary immunodeficiencies: follicular helper and follicular regulatory T cells as disease biomarkers and therapeutic targets. Several primary immunodeficiencies of known and unknown genetic origin are characterized by B cell deficiency and /or production of autoantibodies. In collaboration with Dr. Maria Pia Cicalese (group of Prof Alessandro Aiuti) and Carmen Castiello (group of Prof. Anna Villa) we are studying the cause of the humoral defects in these patients by analyzing their Tfh and Tfr cell compartment.