The Hand Lab

Unraveling the Immune Response to Intestinal Bacteria

We now understand that humans exist as a combination of host cells and a vast consortium of bacteria, viruses and fungi, called the microbiota, which overwhelm the host in number and cover our barrier surfaces. Our immune system has evolved alongside the microbiota, and the cardinal feature of adaptive immunity, “immune memory,” may be an effort to “remember” previous responses and shape subsequent host/microbial interactions. Memory immune responses form the basis of all vaccination efforts and are a critical component of immune function. However, if control over the gastrointestinal tract immune response is lost, it can lead to the development of autoinflammatory disorders.

Within the Richard King Mellon Foundation Institute for Pediatric Research, the laboratory of Timothy Hand, PhD, studies the interaction between the commensal microbiota and the immune system in the gastrointestinal tract. In particular we focus on how perturbations in the environment, such as enteric infections or changes in diet, may affect this crucial relationship. The hope is that these studies will lead to critical insights into the development of important pediatric autoinflammatory diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease and environmental enteropathy.