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Our Research

The main research line of the Translational Respiratory Immunology laboratory explores the role of the Gut-Lung Axis of Immune Regulation and the microbiome in the context of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and pneumococcal pneumonia.

COPD and lung infections are the 3rd and 4th leading causes of death worldwide (WHO). COPD is a heterogeneous syndrome that severely impairs breathing. It is caused by inhaled noxious stimuli including cigarette smoke, environmental pollutants such as particles and gases, and/or genetic factors. COPD is a seriously debilitating condition that affects over 250 million people worldwide. While current treatments can help manage COPD symptoms and treat infections, they cannot revert lung damage, rendering COPD an incurable disease.

Among human respiratory bacterial pathogens, Streptococcus pneumoniae remains one of the main causes of community acquired pneumonia, affecting infants, the elderly and the immunocompromised. Despite the availability of pneumococcal vaccines, due to the emergence of antibiotic resistance and increasing incidence of non-vaccine types the pneumococcus continues to be a prominent human pathogen causing life threatening diseases including invasive pneumonia, meningitis and sepsis.  Streptococcus pneumoniae is also the third most important bacterial pathogen in COPD patients which may trigger COPD exacerbations or flare-ups. 

The gut microbiota and gut-derived metabolites are known to affect the lungs' immune function, modulating inflammation and susceptibility to infection.

Our lab focuses on dissecting the molecular mechanisms by which gut microbial-derived metabolites modulate lung immunity to build the foundations for their clinical application. Our goal is to use a bench-to-bedside approach that will enable the application of nutritional-based therapies for treatment of COPD and lung infections as well as other chronic lung conditions.


Other expanding research lines in the lab include the study of genetic and epigenetic factors affecting susceptibility to lung infections and vaccine efficacy against respiratory pathogens.
Our lab has a particular interest in unveiling the molecular basis that triggers the changes in susceptibility to respiratory infections linked to a single nucleotide mutation (SNP) affecting the MyD88-adaptor protein MAL. This protein plays a key role in Toll Like Receptor signalling, innate immunity and the interferon-gamma signalling pathway.
An area of growing interest to the Translational Respiratory Immunology group is to investigate how microbial-derived metabolites promoting epigenetic modifications can affect the long term response to respiratory infections and innate immune training in the lungs.

Our lab is also interested in learning how microbial metabolites modulate the response to mucosal vaccines to respiratory pathogens.

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