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 acute COPD exacerbations triggered by infections.
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, constituting the 3rd cause of death globally. Recurrent respiratory infections accelerate lung function decline triggering COPD exacerbations or flare-ups.
While current treatments can help manage COPD symptoms and treat infections, they cannot revert lung damage, rendering COPD an incurable disease.
Unveiling the complex mechanisms of lung disease
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Cutting edge research by the PI and her collaborators, identified an intriguing relationship between microbial-derived metabolites in the gut and modulation of lung inflammation. These metabolites can also modulate responses to respiratory pathogens and modulate susceptibility, holding great potential for the treatment of COPD and infection-induced exacerbations.
This project aims at dissecting the molecular mechanisms by which these gut microbial-derived metabolites modulate lung immunity to build the foundations for their clinical application. Its ultimate goal is to use a bench-to-bedside approach that will enable the application of nutritional-based therapies for treatment of COPD and 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.