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Our immune system has evolved many different cells with different functions to prevent infections. One of these functions is cellular cytotoxicity; this means that cells are able to kill other cells. Natural killer cells (NK cells) are one type of these cells that can achieve cytotoxicity. CARSTEN WATZL experiments with NK cells in order to find out how they protect themselves from their own cytotoxic machinery and how they undertake ‘serial killing’. The research group’s results suggest that the molecule CD107a, which is inside the vesicles that contain the cytotoxic molecules, is involved in protecting the NK cell. The researchers also found evidence that the killing process of NK cells is regulated and that the cells know when they have killed another cell. Their discoveries have important applications for the development of treatments for diseases like cancers and autoimmune diseases.


Carsten Watzl is Scientific Director and Professor of Occupational Health at the IfADo – Leibniz Research Centre for Working Environment and Human Factors. Previously, he was affiliated with Heidelberg University and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID-NIH) in the United States. Among his research interests are immune regulation, natural killer cells and signal pathways. Furthermore, he is Associate Editor of the European Journal of Immunology and of Frontiers of Immunology. Since 2013, he is elected Secretary General of the German Society for Immunology. He has received a number of awards, including the BioFuture Award from the German Ministry of Education and Research in 2004.


IfADo - Leibniz Research Centre for Working Environment and Human Factors

The IfADo – Leibniz Research Centre for Working Environment and Human Factors investigates the benefits and risks of modern work life from various perspectives – ranging from single cells to entire individuals and groups in their working environment. As a result, IfADo conduct research that contributes to an adequate design of the working environment for the benefit and wellbeing of the working people as well as the maintenance and promotion of performance, health, and competitiveness. IfADo integrates both basic and applied science in its mission to understand human health and disease. Due to the interdisciplinary approach, IfADo’s research comprises four research fields: ergonomics, immunology, toxicology as well as psychology and neuroscience. ( source )
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Original publication

Surface CD107a/LAMP-1 Protects Natural Killer Cells from Degranulation-Associated Damage

Watzl Carsten, Cohnen André, Chiang Samuel C, Stojanovic Ana, Schmidt Hendrik, Claus Maren, Saftig Paul, Janßen Ottmar, Cerwenka Adelheid and Bryceson Yenan T
Published in 2013

Termination of the Activating NK Cell Immunological Synapse Is an Active and Regulated Process

Netter Petra, Anft Moritz and Watzl Carsten
The Journal of Immunology
Published in 2017

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