As a new member of RESIST we welcome Dr Helenie Kefalakes.

Infection with the hepatitis D virus is rare, but it often becomes chronic and can lead to cirrhosis and liver cancer. But why does this infection not heal? This has not yet been sufficiently researched. It is suspected that the immune system plays an important role, but so far we have too little data. That is why Dr Helenie Kefalakes is researching within the framework of RESIST what role certain immune cells, so-called CD4+ T cells, play in controlling the virus. “We want to find out why they fail and how their immune response could be changed to eliminate the viruses,” says Dr Kefalakes.

She is building on many years of experience with CD8+ T-cell responses, as it has already been shown why these cells fail to eliminate viral hepatitis and even contribute to viral persistence in the liver: “The function of these responses depends on viral evolution. This underlines how important it is to consider immune responses in the context of the pathogen,” explains the researcher.

Dr Helenie Kefalakes has been working at the Department of Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Endocrinology at MHH since 2021. She is a specialist in internal medicine and conducted research on adaptive immunity in chronic hepatitis D virus infection in the Immunology Division of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in the USA from 2016 to 2020.