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Research Group “Defects in lymphocyte cytotoxicity”

Dr. Peter Aichele

Animal models for hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis (HLH), a defect in cytotoxicity of T cells and NK cells

Familial hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis (FHL) is a life-threatening primary immunodeficiency which is fatal without treatment. The disease is characterised by a severe disturbance of the immune homeostasis. Most cases of FHL are due to genetic defects in Perforin or in other genes involved in cellular cytotoxicity by NK cells or cytotoxic T cells. The hemophagocytic syndrome (HLH) can develop in the context of infections. The pathogenesis of this disease remains poorly understood. However, this is an important prerequisite for development of targeted immunological therapies. In this interdisciplinary project we want to further characterize the pathogenesis of FHL in animal models.


since 2019 Group leader, Institute for Immunodeficiency, Medical Center - University of Freiburg
2002 – 2019 Group leader, Institute for Immunology, Center for Microbiology and Hygiene, Medical Center - University of Freiburg
1998 – 2002 Research Fellow, Max-Planck-Institute for Infection Biology, Berlin
1996 – 1997 Postdoctorate, Department of Experimental Immunology, University Hospital Zurich, Switzerland
1991 – 1996 PhD Thesis in Experimental Immunology, University of Zurich, Switzerland (Supervisor: Prof. Hans Hengartner)
1983 – 1990 Study of Biology in Freiburg and Zurich, Switzerland

Research Areas

1. Identification of initial triggers required for induction of HLH in FHL mice.

2. Impact of various genetic defects on HLH progression – correlation of genotype with phenotype.

3. Analysis of other immunological functions beside cytotoxicity of HLH related genes (SFB1160, project B04).

4. Impact of T cell exhaustion on HLH pathogenesis.

5. Therapeutic intervention strategies in HLH:


  • Yenan Bryceson, Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, Sweden
  • Toni Cathomen, Institute for Transfusion Medicine and Gene Therapy, Freiburg
  • Susana Minguet, Institute of Biology III, Freiburg
  • Hanspeter Pircher, Max Planck Institute of Immunobiology and Epigenetics, Freiburg
  • Marta Rizzi, Department of Rheumatology and Clinical Immunology, Freiburg
  • Udo zur Stadt, Pädiatrische Hämatologie und Onkologie, Uniklinik Hamburg-Eppendorf

Team members

Group Leader    
Peter Aichele peter.aichele@uniklinik-freiburg.de phone +49 761 203-6549


Sandra Ammann sandra.ammann@uniklinik-freiburg.de phone: +49 761 203-6647
Kristoffer Weißert kristoffer.weissert@uniklinik-freiburg.de phone: +49 761 203-6647



Jessica Lao jessica.lao@uniklinik-freiburg.de    phone: +49 761 203-6552

Master students

Gudrun Thoulass gudrun.thoulass@uniklinik-freiburg.de phone: +49 761 203-6552


Smiljka Vucikuja  smiljka.vucikuja@uniklinik-freiburg.de phone: +49 761 203 6541

Dr. Peter Aichele
Institute for Immunodeficiency
Center for Chronic Immunodeficiency (CCI)

Hermann Herder Str. 11
79104 Freiburg i. Brsg.

Phone: +49 761 203-6549