Sonia Berrih-Aknin DSc Immunology

Course and current status

Director of Research at INSERM

Scientific summary

My team is integrated in the Unit " Therapies of striated muscle diseases" headed by Prof T. Voit at the Institute of Myology.

Our project is focused on Myasthenia Gravis (MG) disease. This neuromuscular disease is generally mediated by antibodies to anti-acetylcholine receptor (AChR)  and is still incapacitating. Despite important efforts to understand this disease, the pathogenic mechanisms involved in their initiation are not elucidated and there is still a need to improve their diagnosis and treatment. Our studies helped to define the central role played by the thymus in the early onset patients and to demonstrate a compensatory mechanim in the muscle. Our work revealed a severe defect in the immunoregulatory mechanisms and identified several chemokines involved in the pathogenic mechanims.

Our specific objectives are to discover the triggering factors at the origin of MG disease by focusing on the role of pathogens and sexual hormones, to address the mechanisms of physiopathology and to understand why this disease is chronic by analyzing the molecular and cellular defects both in the thymus (effector organ) and the muscle (target organ), and to bring the proof of concept of new cell therapies based on the modulation of the immunoregulatory function. This project is performed in close collaboration with several European research centers and with the center of Reference on neuromuscular disorders of the institute of Myology (Pr B. Eymard).

Our team has been largely involved in the coordination of European projects on Myasthenia Gravis: FP5 (Mechanisms of MG), FP6 (Myastaid,, a DG –SANCO grant that aims to improve the communication between the scientists, clinicians and patients ( ) and we are currently coordinating the FP7 FIGHT-MG project ( including twelve European teams.
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