Assistant Professor of Immunology in Pediatrics
My laboratory is focused on studying how dysregulated interactions between immune cells of the gut and gut microbiome at the maternal-fetal/neonatal interface contribute to the development of neonatal or pediatric inflammatory diseases. Specifically, ongoing studies in my laboratory involve in vitro cell biology assays, disease models in gnotobiotic mice and examination of clinical samples from newborns and children. We recently reported the presence of antigen-specific IgG antibodies that were induced by gut commensal bacteria under homeostatic conditions and a protective role for these pre-existing antibodies in conferring rapid protection against systemic pathogenic infections in mice, due to cross-reactivity to conserved IgG antigens expressed on pathogens. As a result, current efforts in the lab are centered on understanding the role of maternal gut microbiome-induced immune components in neonatal inflammatory complications, such as premature birth and necrotizing enterocolitis. An overarching goal for these studies is to develop strategies to use gut bacteria or bacterial components as candidates for maternal immunization to help facilitate appropriate immune responses in the fetus during pregnancy or in the newborn after birth. Another research effort is to identify gut bacteria in the newborn that induce aberrant gut inflammation, which is associated with development of food allergies, asthma or obesity in later life. Our diet or gut microbiome contributes significantly to the development of these kinds of inflammatory disorders commonly found in children from most developed countries. Understanding the underlying mechanisms will advance the development of therapeutics for these diseases.