Over the past decade, it has become clear that the intestinal microbiota can affect host metabolism and systemic immune cell responses also in distal organs, such as the Central Nervous System (CNS), through the dissemination of bacterial products or metabolites, which strongly depend on the substrates available through dietary intake. Nutrition became a complementary, alternative and successful approach in the management of metabolic and neurological conditions. However, for this to be effective for many more patients we lack an adequate understanding of the exact mechanisms involved in the diet-intestinal microbiota-mediated CNS effects.
We and others showed that bacteria and diets influence the host immune response, however how exactly the diet-microbiota interplay can affect the functions of the immune cells residing and homing to the CNS, during healthy and inflammatory conditions, remains poorly understood.
Our lab aims to study the cellular and molecular mechanisms of how diets affect the composition and function of the gut microbiota and, subsequently, the CNS functions under healthy and neurological disease conditions, such as multiple sclerosis, refractory epilepsy and Alzheimer’s disease. To address our goals we combine state-of-the-art next generation ‘OMICs techniques and gnotobiology techniques in animal models.
We are also interested in studying the microbiota role in the pathogenesis of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and how innate immune pathways, such as inflammasome, contribute to intestinal homeostasis and during intestinal inflammation.