Research Group Prof. Dr. Natalia Pikor

The Laboratory of Neuroimmunology studies the immunological processes involved in inflammatory reactions in the brain.

Our group studies how immune responses are coordinated and sustained in the CNS. In health and disease, immune cells survey the CNS through the vast vasculature that supplies the brain with oxygen and nutrients. In the context of viral infection, autoimmune disease or CNS malignancies, immune cells exit the vasculature and enter a space supported by fibroblastic cells that are activated in inflammation and disease to instruct the further functions of the immune cells. Our group is using pre-clinical models and patient tissues to dissect the complexities of the interactions between immune cells and these fibroblastic cells across an array of CNS diseases.

The first ETH professorship in the Canton of St.Gallen has been awarded to Prof. Dr. Natalia Pikor. The Swiss National Science Foundation has been funding the KSSG/ETH professorship since April 2023.

Current research projects


Identification and manipulation of immune-stimulating fibroblastic stromal cell niches in the inflamed CNS

Recent studies indicate that local inflammation of the central nervous system (CNS) may be more common than previously thought. Interestingly, certain viral infections induce the formation of memory lymphocytic clusters that may play a role in local immune surveillance. This project we will investigate the function of immune-stimulating fibroblasts, as well as the ability of neurotropic viruses to induce stromal cell niches and promote cross-activation of myelin-specific T cells. Overall, this research will lead to a better understanding of the mechanisms controlling viral infections and CNS autoimmunity.

Swiss National Science Foundation, Ambizione
Principal investigator: Natalia Pikor

Elucidating mechanisms of disease pathogenesis in a coronavirus- induced model of Multiple Sclerosis

A number of neurotropic viruses increase the risk of developing a CNS autoimmune disease, e.g. Multiple Sclerosis. Since the disease-initiating events precede clinical onset in patients, we are using a pre-clinical neurotropic viral infection model to assess where, when and how the antiviral immune responses increases the risk of CNS autoimmunity.

Swiss Multiple Sclerosis Society
Principal investigator: Natalia Pikor

Cellular and Molecular Determinants of Coronavirus- Induced Hypercytokinemia

Coronaviruses can cause severe pulmonary disease, as exemplified by COVID-19. Although clinical correlates of severe disease can be measured once patients develop a severe infection, the initiating steps triggering severe coronavirus-induced disease remain ill-described. In this project, we use a mouse coronavirus model to dissect the early, step-by-step
antiviral immune responses during pulmonary coronavirus infection.

Novartis Stiftung für medizinisch- biologische
Principal investigator: Natalia Pikor

Transcriptomic analysis of fibroblasts in brain tumors - an exploratory study

This is an exploratory study to assess immunesupporting microenvironments in the CNS underscored by different brain tumor entities.
We are employing cutting-edge transcriptomic technologies to determine the molecular lndscape of immune cells, tumor cells and fibroblastic cells in human meningioma, brain metastases and glioblastoma samples.

Forschungsförderung Kantonsspital St. Gallen
Principal investigator: Natalia Pikor; Marian
Christoph Neidert


Research and clinical trial database

In the research and clinical trial database of the KSSG, you will find more detailed information about the individual research projects and publications of the research group.