Funded by the Dick Vitale Pediatric Cancer Research Fund
Within days of birth, trillions of harmless, and even beneficial, bacteria colonize an infant’s skin and gut. The developing immune system must learn to tolerate these “commensal” bacteria to avoid the onset of destructive inflammatory diseases such as eczema and inflammatory bowel disease. Remarkably little is known about the cell types that instruct immune cells to accept commensal bacteria in early life. Our research will address the cross-talk between microbes and the developing immune system to elucidate the mechanisms by which the host and bacteria learn to develop a harmonious, symbiotic relationship. In this effort, we seek to reveal the role of a newly identified, early-life immune cell in establishing acceptance of commensal skin microbes. Overall, the project is expected to provide insights into basic mechanisms of immune-regulation, clues to pediatric inflammatory diseases, and a path to the development of new therapies.