Primates have evolved a distinct mucosal immune system comprising of host immune cells and the microbiota that inhabit areas such as the gut, skin, nasal and oral cavities, lungs, and reproductive tract. This mucosal immune system serves the dual role of protecting the body from pathogenic invasion and maintaining homeostasis at mucosal surfaces. Our interests focus on identifying the key immune effector cells that respond to infection or initiate inflammation, and understanding the role of crosstalk between immune cells and microbiota in maintenance of mucosal immune homeostasis.
We are focusing on understanding mechanisms underlying mucosal immune dysfunction during lentiviral infections and developing interventions to improve mucosal immunity and target HIV/SIV reservoirs in the nonhuman primate model of HIV-AIDS. Another research area is centered on understanding the mucosal immune function with aging. We are studying the association between chronic low-grade inflammation of aging or “inflammaging” and intestinal barrier functions, since chronic inflammation is a highly significant risk factor for morbidity in elderly people. The ultimate goal is to develop novel therapeutic interventions, such as immunotherapy and microbiota modulation, to target inflammation in treated HIV-infected individuals as well as in the aging population susceptible to chronic diseases.
Microbial Pathogenesis and Inflammation, Mucosal immunity, T cell biology