Small Molecule Control of Immune Responses
Immune cell modulation is an attractive strategy for the treatment of inflammatory conditions. Inflammation is critical to protecting us from dangers within (e.g. cancer) and without (e.g. microbes). But inflammation also drives much human pathology and disease, including autoimmune diseases and, potentially, neurodevelopmental disorders. Towards improved treatments for a range of conditions, I am interested in uncovering novel mechanisms underlying how natural and synthetic small molecules regulate immune cell functions during the course of inflammation.
Nuclear hormone receptor (NhRs) family members are thought to play key roles in these pathways. They are regulated by cell-membrane-permeable small-molecule ligands and play critical roles in the development and function of both pro- and anti- inflammatory immune cells. Thus, small molecules can shape immune responses by directly modulating immune cell specific NhRs.
For next three to five years, my laboratory will aim to identify host- and bacteria-derived small molecules that control inflammation in mammalian guts. Further we are studying the mechanisms by which immune cell function and inflammation dictates neural development.