The Secret Language Shared by Our Immune System and Microbiome
Among our bodies’ first lines of defense against invading microbes are its mucosal surfaces: the thin layers of cells that protect our bodies from microbial attacks. These mucosal barriers are present on large surfaces of the human body, such as the skin, lungs and intestinal tract. Research on chronic inflammatory diseases suggests that interactions between microbes and our immune system at these surfaces are necessary for the onset of disease.
Dr. Arthur Mortha, Canada Research Chair in Mucosal Immunology, is applying his expertise in mucosal immunology to understand the crosstalk between the immune system and the microbiome—the collection of microbes that colonize our mucosal surfaces. In particular, he aims to understand how the microbiome and mucosal cell interactions control immune system tolerance (or rejection and inflammation).
Using the intestine as his test model, Mortha is exploring the role played by the molecular relationship between microbes and mucosal cells in maintaining a healthy immune system. His results will form the first-ever genetic map of the specific host-microbial interactions that regulate intestinal health. This information will pinpoint where these signals misfire or fail, opening the door to chronic diseases.
Ultimately, Mortha’s ground-breaking approach is changing the way we think about the role of mucosal surfaces in our immune system and—as a result—the way we address immune conditions. These advances could radically improve how we treat conditions like inflammatory bowel disease, psoriasis, cancer, diabetes, arthritis and multiple sclerosis.