Our laboratory uses proteomics, immunology, biochemistry, and molecular biology to decipher complex disorders through profiling and phenotyping of patients’ immune, metabolic, gastrointestinal, and neurologic function. Our aim is to identify novel biomarkers, understand disease mechanism, and find therapeutic targets through translational research. Two areas of research are pursued by our group:
Research Area 1 – Role of gut-immune-brain interaction in gastrointestinal and neuropsychiatric disease.
Human intestinal mucosal surfaces are colonized by large communities of microorganisms and are in constant contact with an abundance of highly immunogenic dietary and microbial components. Proper regulation of the interaction between the host and the contents of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract is of utmost importance in avoiding aberrant immune responses and requires several different mechanisms. Failure of one or more of these regulatory mechanisms can adversely affect human health, not only through GI disorders, but also via systemic manifestations that may influence cognition and behavior. A primary goal of our group is investigation of the role of mucosal inflammation and intestinal barrier function in the context of GI and neuropsychiatric symptoms. Disease focus areas in our lab include celiac disease, non-celiac wheat/gluten sensitivity, irritable bowel syndrome, autism spectrum disorders, cerebellar ataxia, schizophrenia, and myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome.
Research Area 2 – Post-acute sequelae of infectious diseases: mechanism and biomarkers for development of chronic symptoms after infection.
There is considerable accumulating evidence that the persistence of symptoms like fatigue and cognitive difficulties after certain infectious diseases, such as Lyme disease or COVID-19, is immune-mediated. A critical barrier to a better understanding of the mechanisms involved has been the lack of biomarkers to characterize disease phenotypes and analyze treatment outcome. Our lab has been studying the connection between pathogen variant, host immune response, and the persistence of inflammation and symptoms following infection. We are also working towards establishing biomarkers to predict the risk of developing post-infection symptoms. Our work in this context has been primarily focused in the past 15 years on infection with Borrelia burgdorferi, the causative agent of Lyme disease, the most common vector-borne infection in the United States and Europe.