The faculty of the Mucosal Immunology and Biology Research Center (MIBRC) at Massachusetts General Hospital includes experts from a variety of disciplines related to 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.
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).
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.
Beth McCormick, PhD
My laboratory is centered around three major research programs: Mucosal inflammation, host-pathogen interactions and cancer biology.
The objective of the mucosal inflammatory program is to investigate the molecular mechanisms by which bacterial pathogens induce mucosal inflammation at sites of the intestinal and respiratory epithelium.
This work is based on longstanding pathologic observations that the attachment of an array of bacterial pathogens to epithelial surfaces is accompanied by the recruitment of host defense cells, as manifested by neutrophil infiltration of the epithelium.
My laboratory is also centered on the study of host-pathogen interactions, and specifically the investigation of strategies used by enteric and respiratory pathogens to induce proinflammatory responses.
The third area of research in my laboratory is focused on cancer biology. My original interest in this field of study was cultivated by the observation that Salmonella is able to preferentially locate to sites of tumor growth (achieving tumor/normal tissue ratios of approximately 1,000:1).
The ultimate goal of this work is to exploit Salmonella for the development of a new and robust class of multi-drug resistance inhibitors designed as an adjuvant to chemotherapeutics for cancers that are known to express high levels of Pgp, such as colorectal cancers and breast cancer.
Hans-Christian Reinecker, MD
I am Director of the Genetics, Genomics and Molecular Biology Core of the Center for the Study of Inflammatory Bowel Diseases (CSIBD) at Massachusetts General Hospital and the Director for Information Systems for the Division of Gastroenterology at Mass General.
My laboratory has a long-standing interest in basic mechanisms controlling the mucosal immune system, intestinal barrier function and Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD).
My current research interests focus on the mechanisms of IBD susceptibility genes in the regulation of the mucosal subspecifications of antigen-processing cells for microbial recognition in the intestine.
Our laboratory has expertise in biochemical and cell biological methods. We apply molecular biological approaches to the characterization of the mucosal immune system with particular focus on mechanisms of macrophage and dendritic cell innate immune function.
Recently, we have developed novel 3D and 4D imaging approaches to study membrane trafficking, antigen uptake and cell migration in the mucosal immune system.
Many of my postdoctoral fellows have gone on to establish their own laboratories studying different aspects of epithelial cell biology and mucosal immunology.