Mark Travis, The University of Manchester
The immune system must be rapidly activated to eliminate infection, but be tightly regulated to prevent self-harmful immune responses. When this regulation breaks down, severe health problems can occur, such as uncontrolled infection or autoimmune disorders (where the immune system attacks the body’s own tissues and organs).
My lab aims to identify important cells and molecules that control immune responses in health and disease. We are specifically interested in cells called dendritic cells, which are not only crucial in stimulating immune reactions during infection, but also in preventing disease by suppressing dangerous immune responses. We are especially interested in how dendritic cells control immune responses in the intestine, which is a particularly difficult environment for the immune system. The intestine is lined by trillions of bacteria that are important for normal health, but could potentially trigger a harmful immune response. Additionally, we eat large amounts of different types of foods which pass through the intestine every day and have the potential to stimulate immunity. Therefore, by understanding how cells and molecules in the intestine control immune responses, we can understand how normal health is maintained, and what goes wrong during inflammatory bowel disease and infections of the gut.