Commensal micro-organisms are communities of microbes made up of viruses, bacteria, fungi and protists that live in and on our mucosal surfaces, such as the mouth, nose, lungs and stomach.
They interact with our body’s immune system to maintain balance. Sometimes, these interactions can go awry and lead to autoimmune disorders or chronic inflammatory diseases. We know that tissue-resident innate immune cells act as mediators between commensal micro-organisms and the immune system, but we still don’t know the underlying mechanisms behind these interactions.
Dr. Arthur Mortha, Canada Research Chair in Mucosal Immunology, aims to fill this knowledge gap. He and his research team are studying the interactions between tissue-resident immune cells and commensal microbes. This is the critical first step in designing drugs to treat the misdirected host—microbiome communications that can lead to autoimmune disorders and chronic inflammatory diseases.