Our research aims at dissecting the crosstalk between human bodies and microbiota - the ecosystem of bacteria, viruses and fungi that populate virtually all of our organs and tissues, especially the gut - with the final aim of understanding their role in disease development, prevention and therapeutics.
In the human body there are approximately 30 trillion human cells and around 39 trillion bacteria, living in different niches and organs, the principal one being the gut. Thanks to new advancements in technology, we are just starting to unveil the extraordinary power that these organisms have in maintaining our health and contributing to many high-impact diseases, such as cancer, immune-mediated, systemic and neurological diseases.
Main research areas
We have shown that dendritic cells actively participate to bacterial uptake in the gut, and that the local microenvironment dictates immune homeostasis by releasing factors that control the activity of immune cells in the gut. We also discovered the existence of a gut vascular barrier that resembles the blood brain barrier and that restrains bacteria from entering the blood stream. Current research projects are investigating the mechanisms behind its disruption, which appear to be a key feature of several disorders in the gut-liver axis.
We have shown that bacteria can drive the establishment of gap junctions between tumor cells and immune cells for an efficient priming of anti-tumor immunity able to prevent cancer development or counter its progression. We have also developed tumor-specific bacteria that act as intelligent missiles, targeting and killing cancer cells.
We recently identified a new choroid plexus vascular barrier (PVB) which receives and integrates information coming from the gut and is fundamental in the modulation of the gut-brain axis. Several pathologies – gastrointestinal, systemic and neurological disorders – are linked to functional dysregulation of either the more known gut vascular barrier, or the PVB, and are associated to the translocation of bacterial metabolites, microbes, inflammatory molecules, toxins and immune cells across these barriers.
Association Between BNT162b2 Vaccination and Long COVID After Infections Not Requiring Hospitalization in Health Care Workers.