Medizinische Biotechnologie

Vita Sina Bartfeld

Career biography

Prof. Sina Bartfeld studied Biology in Hamburg, Melbourne and Berlin. In her PhD thesis, in the group of Prof. Thomas F. Meyer at the Max Planck Institute for Infection Biology in Berlin, she identified ALPK1 as a central signaling molecule in the innate immune response to Helicobacter pylori. Dr. Bartfeld then joined the group of Prof. Hans Clevers at the Hubrecht Institute in Utrecht for her postdoc with support by an EMBO short-term fellowship and a Marie Curie postdoc fellowship. She contributed to the understanding of stem cells in the stomach and established methods to grow human gastric organoids from normal tissue as well as cancer tissue. Further, Dr. Bartfeld pioneered the use of organoids for infection biology and showed that the inflammatory response of epithelial cells to H. pylori depends on the differentiation of the epithelial cells. Since 2015, she leads a junior group at the University of Würzburg. In September 2021, she joined the Technical University Berlin as full professor to head the Department of Medical Biotechnology and to be part of „Der Simulierte Mensch“, a joint research center of Charite and TU Berlin.

Research interests

The Bartfeld lab studies infection, innate immunity, and cancer biology. A special interest of the group is the host response to infections. Epithelial cells as well as immune cells can sense bacteria via pattern recognition receptors (PRRs), which activates innate immune signaling pathways and leads to an inflammatory response. Chronic inflammation, for example caused by infection with the gastric pathogen Helicobacter pylori, can cause serious disease, including cancer. We strive to better understand this process by trying to answer the following key questions: Which PRRs are active in the gastrointestinal epithelial cells to mount an inflammatory response? What regulates expression and function of PRRs in the epithelium? How do specific cell types respond to infection, for example by the gastric pathogen H. pylori? While asking basic mechanistic questions, the group always strives to also improve human in vitro models, especially models of the digestive tract and the bone marrow niche. The group uses adult stem cell-derived organoids and organ-on-a-chip technology. Organoids comprise a 3-D multicellular primary cell culture that closely mimics the in vivo organization of different cell lineages, thus resembling miniature versions of the original organs. Therefore, organoids from normal tissue offer useful model systems to understand human epithelial cells and their interaction with bacteria and viruses. Cancer organoids on the other hand are promising tools to develop drug discovery approaches and patient-specific therapies.