Jungwissenschaftlerin im Pitch – Dominika Pollak über ihre Allergieforschungsarbeit am AKH-Wien

Im Wissenschaftsradio NJOY 91.3 stellten 4 junge Wissenschaftler in einem Kurz-Pitch ihre Arbeit vor. Eine davon ist Dr. Dominika Pollak. Sie kommt aus der Hafenstadt Danzig in Polen und erforscht am AKH Wien, am Institut für Pathophysiologie und Allergieforschung, was bei Allergien in unserem Körper passiert. Dabei fokussiert sie sich hauptsächlich auf Zellen unseres Immunsystems, denen bisher wenig Beachtung geschenkt wurde: den sogenannten Neutrophilen.

Mitarbeiter im Labor Quelle: iStock.com/YinYang - Copyright: Scientific DX GmbH, 2018

Wir durften Dominika zu Ihrer Forschung und dem Pitch Fragen stellen. Da Dominika ursprünglich aus Polen ist, wurde das Interview auf Englisch geführt:

Nora Zulehner: Can you summarize your pitch for us in a few sentences?

Dominika Pollak: Since immunology is a broad discipline and deals with all aspects of immune processes, I wanted to really simplify my pitch. Therefore, I compared the immune system to a machine of war, which has its soldiers, e.g. neutrophils. Neutrophils are cells, which live short but act brave. Under normal circumstances, they are guards of our bodies.

Unfortunately, also our immune system sometimes makes mistakes. One of the mistakes is called allergic mode. Cell soldiers attack harmless substances, and the attack is far greater than needed!

In this mode, the number of neutrophils is increasing and outnumbers other cells types. Interestingly, that fact has not received much attention. However, in our laboratory we thought that if our body is recruiting such an army there must be a reason for it!

Dominika Pollak Dominika Pollak (Quelle: Privat)

Therefore, we isolated neutrophils from the blood of allergic people and did many experiments. Indeed, the data showed us that neutrophils might have an important and novel role during the “allergic war”. However, under these circumstances they are not the good guys! No! They are rebels that support other divisions of bad soldiers called allergen-specific T-cells.

Our study is the beginning of a mission. However, it is an important mission, because it might provide the basis for the therapeutic treatment of neutrophils during the allergic war, which of course could help people who suffer from allergies. Moreover, I think it teaches us that we should never underestimate any parameters in our studies.

What is the original function of neutrophils in our immune system?

Neutrophils are white blood cells, which are the first line of defense. They are patrolling our bodies and they eliminate pathogens like for example bacteria. Therefore, they are important cells which protect us when the immune system does not make any mistakes.

What happens to allergy sufferers when the immune system “overreacts” with these cells?

We showed that during allergic reactions (precisely in the phase, which is called late phase reaction) recruited neutrophils have a prolonged lifespan and act as magnifiers of the inflammation. They do it by activation of allergen-specific T cells. Consequently, the allergic disease might be more severe.

How do you think your research can help allergy sufferers in the future?

I think we need to learn as much as possible about the mechanisms of allergic diseases. This knowledge could help to design new treatments.

And last but not least: how did you prepare for the radio show and what advise can you give young scientists to make their research accessible to a wider audience?

I have to say in the beginning it was stressful, but everybody was so nice and it was a cool experience! Michel Mehle, edithor from Radio NJOY 91.3 suggested me to “create easily understandable images in the listeners' minds”. That helped me a lot. I tried to “visualize” my study. My supervisor, Professor Barbara Bohle gave me the advice to leave out all scientific words, which sometimes can be challenging. Additionally, I practiced the pitch in front of my friends. I would advise: use basic words and talk to people. Teamwork is always the best!

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