A research team from Texas A&M College of Medicine led by Dr. Robert Alaniz received a $2 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to understand how the microbiota regulates T-cells, white blood cells that are crucial to protect the organism against tumors and pathogens.
The microbiome consists of the combination of various microbial communities and their genes that exist throughout the human body and play a crucial role in human health and disease. There is a beneficial relationship between humans and microbes that contributes to the host’s metabolic health, immunity, gut function and behavior. The gut microbiota resident in the gastrointestinal tract are very important for regulating immune system homeostasis and for the host’s health. Importantly, variation in intestinal microbiota composition has been linked to various chronic conditions, including obesity and inflammatory diseases. In autoimmune conditions, such as colitis, the immune cells become dysregulated and start to attack their own cells.
Microbiome research has recently become a very popular theme within the research community and the public in general. As such, the understanding of mechanisms responsible for autoimmune regulation by the microbiota is just making is first steps. The team led by Dr. Robert Alaniz will investigate how to instruct T-cells to induce protection from inflammation and prevent disease.
Dr. Alaniz said he expects their findings will lead to the development of a tailored approach for the treatment of each patient in opposition to the adaptation of the patient to therapy. “We are essentially looking at ways to create personalized cellular immunotherapy to re-educate our own T-cells so that they regulate autoimmune diseases,” added Dr. Alaniz.
The multidisciplinary nature of this collaboration will enable the creation of a new optimal approach to grow and condition T-cells, which will improve the understanding of how immune cells behave when infused in a patient. The results from this research will hopefully improve the understanding of the role of microbiota as a crucial and active player for human health.
The research team includes Dr. Arul Jayaraman, from the Department of Chemical Engineering at Texas A&M University and Dr. Juergen Hahn from the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.