Pathogen Induced Chronic Inflammatory Disorders
A primary research focus is in the area of chronic inflammation and the role of the microbiome in systemic inflammatory disorders. Current funding through a large program project grant is focused on the role of the innate immune system in pathogen induced chronic inflammation. Chronic inflammation culminates in devastating events, results in significant host pathology, and is associated with a number of human diseases including autoimmune diseases, obesity, diabetes, infectious diseases, and inflammatory atherosclerosis. Our focus has been on the association between microbially induced chronic inflammation and atherosclerosis with pending studies in the area of pancreatic cancer. Recent work is focused on markers of dendritic cell mediated immune homeostasis and atherogenesis in the Framingham Heart Study.
Mounting evidence in humans supports an etiological role for the microbiota in chronic systemic inflammatory diseases. Recent studies have established that common chronic infections may account for up to 40% of newly developed atherosclerosis independently of genetic risk factors. The recent finding that innate immune signaling pathways normally triggered by pathogens are dysregulated within atherosclerotic lesions sparked newfound interest in the association between infection, inflammation, and atherosclerosis. Our studies have focused on the pathogenic bacteria Chlamydophila pneumoniae and Porphyromonas gingivalis, which induce a chronic inflammatory response. We have also recently begun to examine the role of lipids in innate responses that contribute to inflammation and atherosclerosis. The long-term goals of this work is to define the interplay between the innate and adaptive immune system and the regulatory pathways that contribute to endogenous and microbial ligand induced chronic inflammation.
Figure left: International innovation, published by research media. www.researchmedia.eu
Figure right: P. gingivalis dysregulates host cell immune activation facilitating systemic inflammation and bacterial peristence. (created by Josh Downs)