Mucosal immunology, IEL, iCD8alpha, osteopontin, granzyme
Our bodies are constantly exposed to infectious agents wanting to invade and proliferate within us. One of the areas with high exposure to foreign antigens is the mucosa of the digestive tract. The mucosal immune system protects the intestines from pathogenic invaders and at the same time discriminates those organisms that are important for our overall homeostasis. My research focuses on the role of intestinal intraepithelial lymphocytes, IEL (a group of immune cells present in the intestinal epithelium) during immune responses in the mucosa.
Our current research involves a novel IEL population discovered in our lab known as innate CD8alpha-alpha cells (or iCD8alpha). We have shown that this population of cells is important for controlling the colonization of pathogenic bacteria, such as Citrobacter rodentium. We believe that one of the roles of these cells is to provide survival signals to other IEL via the cytokine osteopontin. Moreover, we have also observed that iCD8alpha cells mediate mucosal immune responses through secreted granzymes.
These are exciting areas of research that once better understood will provide evidence of how mucosal immune responses occur in the intestinal epithelium, and will provide foundations for therapeutic interventions of gastrointestinal diseases.