The immune system defends against foreign microorganisms that invade our bodies and maintains homeostasis with commensals, which are typically harmless co-habitants that make up the human microbiome. Although these microbiota impact both inflammatory and infectious diseases within the host, the effects of these bacteria on our immune system are not well understood due to several factors, including the complex and dynamic nature of both the host immune response and the human microbiome. Thus, there is a critical need for new approaches to elucidate these important host-microbe interactions to better understand how the microbiota influences the immune system.
To address this need, research in our laboratory focuses on three areas:
(1) Development of activity-based, chemoproteomic approaches to understand metabolic reactions catalyzed by the gut microbiome
(2) Identification of small-molecule metabolites produced by the gut microbiome and elucidation of their roles in regulating host defense
(3) Development of chemical tools to control and understand host immune responses using synthetic immunology strategies.
We envision that our research will reveal a deeper understanding of host-microbe interactions and will enable the development of prophylactic and therapeutic treatments for inflammatory and infectious diseases.
Photo credits: MIT, Maclean's, and SPL (L to R)Header photo credit: Dave Burbank