- Early career investigator
The laboratory of Timothy Hand, PhD, is interested in the immune cells of the intestine and how they respond to the first interactions with colonizing microorganisms. How the immune system deals with newly colonizing bacteria is important, since too little immune response can lead to infection but too much can contribute to damaging inflammation. The intestine is home to the largest and densest group of microorganisms in the body and the intestinal microbiome is required for many host processes, most notably the digestion of complex carbohydrates. Therefore, maintaining a healthy relationship with the microbiome is important for the health of the host. Shifts in the intestinal microbiota and the mucosal immune response have been associated with a variety of important pediatric diseases including inflammatory bowel disease, diabetes, necrotizing enterocolitis and asthma.
Our view is that the long- term relationship between the host and the microbiome can be shaped by the results of their initial interaction by the phenomenon of immunological memory. Therefore, we seek to better understand the immune systems ‘first impressions’ of the microbiota and how they are shaped by environmental factors such as diet and inflammation. Our hope is that a better understanding of how the microbiome shapes the host will lead to better therapies for pediatric disease.