The faculty of the Mucosal Immunology and Biology Research Center (MIBRC) includes experts in the study of mucosa and its response to bacterial pathogens.
Research in my laboratory is directed at understanding how immune responses to bacterial infection are influenced by host and environmental factors. Over the last five to six years, my team has been characterizing the interactions between iron homeostasis and the response to infection.
We have made significant contributions to this area, particularly with respect to the effects of the mammalian iron transporter ferroportin on microbial growth and host innate immunity.
The main focus of my laboratory centers on the bacterial pathogen Shigella flexneri. This organism creates a significant global health burden each year by causing millions of infections, predominantly in children under the age of five years in developing countries.
Despite more than 50 years of effort, there is still no effective vaccine against this pathogen. While many aspects of the Shigella infection cycle have been investigated, a crucial gap in knowledge remains in the important steps in pathogenesis during early infection.
We are currently investigating the composition and changes in the gastrointestinal microbiota to help determine why some individuals with an inherited predisposition to celiac disease develop clinical disease, while others do not. We are also working to uncover a biomarker and diagnostic tool for non-celiac gluten sensitivity.
We are also investigating the role of the timing of gluten introduction to infants in the development of celiac disease, and working to uncover a biomarker and to develop a diagnostic tool for gluten sensitivity.
The Fiorentino lab is interested in elucidating the molecular mechanisms of host-microbial interaction and understanding the impact of changes in the gut environment on brain function and behavior.
The Gobel laboratory studies polarity, epithelial morphogenesis and growth regulation in Caenorhabditis elegans. One of our objectives is to contribute to the understanding of the molecular basis of intestinal morphogenesis.
Our overall research objective is to gain a better understanding of how injury, infection, and/or genetics drive mucosal inflammation and damage, manifesting as disease. More specifically, our team explores how bacterial pathogens and other noxious agents impact barrier integrity at the respiratory and digestive surface and elicit inflammatory processes.
The Jain Lab is dedicated to understanding how the immune system develops and operates in newborns, and in identifying the environmental host factors that dictate plasticity in neonatal immune function.
A main focus of Marcy Kingsbury, PhD, Laboratory at Massachusetts General Hospital is how perinatal immune challenges and stressors impact neuroimmune function and gut-brain-immune interactions. We are particularly interested in how changes in immune cell function within the brain and gut early in development may give rise to cognitive and social behavior deficits and contribute to neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
Our four active areas of research are:
- Determining the role of the hormone oxytocin, a potent anti-inflammatory molecule, for the developing fetal brain and gut
- Examining whether male-specific vulnerabilities in mitochondrial function contribute to the male-biased prevalence of ASD
- Investigating whether maternal immune activation during pregnancy may alter the microbiome-gut-brain axis to impact brain function and emergent social behaviors
- Exploring how tissue resident macrophages modulate neural and gastrointestinal functions
The Mou Laboratory applies stem cell technologies to investigate personalized medicine approaches for lung and airway diseases including cystic fibrosis, asthma, bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD) and chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD).
Stefania Senger, PhD
Our research focuses on dissecting the biological processes that modulate differentiation, regeneration and function of the intestinal epithelium in response of internal and environmental stimuli, including cell-cell cross-talk, food antigens and microbes. Our ultimate goal is to identify novel strategies for the treatment of patients with inflammatory chronic and acute diseases.
To carry out our studies we have developed and validated a repository of intestinal epithelium primary cultures (organoids) derived from colon, ileum and duodenum of healthy donors, patients affected with celiac disease, necrotizing enterocolitis, IBD and from human fetal intestine. Intestinal organoids recapitulate developmentally and disease-related transcriptional and functional characteristics of the tissue of origin and for this reason, represent a very valuable model for our studies.
Research in the Shi lab is focused on the effects of chronic intestinal helminth infection on concurrent infection with bacterial enteropathogens, the influence of early intestinal colonization with probiotic organisms on subsequent mucosal immune responses, and the effect of maternal gestational factors on the development of allergies in offspring.
The Walker Lab's research efforts include defining the passive and active protective properties of human breast milk with regard to the protection from disease during the newborn period. The lab is also studying the development of human intestinal host defenses using human fetal organ cultures, cell lines, and xenograft transplant models.
The Zomorrodi Lab strives to advance precision medicine through developing computational and systems biology approaches. The current focus of the lab is to construct computational mechanistic models of the microbiome and metabolism to better understand the pathogenesis of human diseases and to streamline the design of personalized treatments.