Exposing the benefits of bacteria
Under healthy conditions, our bodies carry trillions of bacteria. These bacteria usually have a positive effect on the development and function of our immune systems. Understanding how this happens may hold the key to new ways of treating infections and immune-mediated diseases (which result from abnormal activity of the body's immune system) like multiple sclerosis and diabetes, and preventing transplant rejection.
Dr. Joaquin (Quim) Madrenas, Canada Research Chair in Human Immunology, is studying how the immune system “sees” Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus) bacteria. Although S. aureus is carried by more than 25 per cent of healthy individuals, it can also produce supertoxins, act as a superbug and cause serious infections.
Madrenas is unraveling what makes S. aureus capable of acting in such strikingly different ways. He is using advanced technology to map out the expression of genes and proteins in microbes and in immune cells during the different stages of S. aureus and human host interaction. Madrenas will then enter this information into computer models to help predict the outcome of encounters between humans and S. aureus.
Madrenas’ research is changing the way we understand infection and immunity by uncovering mechanisms between microbes and hosts that lead to their peaceful co-existence and disease tolerance. Along the way, his research will help identify new molecules that could help us to prevent and treat not only infections by S. aureus but also diseases caused by unwanted activation of the immune system.