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Gastrointestinal Inflammation

Chronic gastritis associated with Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) infection and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) represent two frequent forms of mucosal inflammation affecting the gastrointestinal tract. Chronic infection with H. pylori is associated with the development of a range of diseases, including peptic ulcer disease and gastric adenocarcinoma while IBD includes two major categories, Crohn’s disease (CD) and ulcerative colitis (UC). Interestingly, H. pylori-associated inflammation and IBD seem to affect different populations as all epidemiologic evidence suggests that H. pylori infection is inversely associated with both CD and UC. For instance, in developed countries where the rates of H. pylori infection have declined there has been a noted steady increase in the incidence of IBD. Interestingly, a common feature shared by chronic gastritis and IBD is an altered mucosal immune response.

Dr. Reyes’ group has been at the forefront of the characterization of the mechanisms that regulate T cell phenotype and function in the H. pylori-infected gastric mucosa and in the human gut affected by IBD. His research has centered on non-classical antigen presenting cells as the most common cell types in contact with infiltrating CD4+ effector and regulatory T cells. Although H. pylori infects more than half of the world’s population and is classified as a class I carcinogen, a protective vaccine is not yet available despite efforts to develop one. This is in part explained by the well-known ability of H. pylori to subvert the host immune response, as Dr. Reyes’ group has shown in several studies. Thus, to succeed in the development of a vaccine it is critical to understand the mechanisms whereby H. pylori manipulates host immunity, which is a focus of current studies.

Because immune dysregulation is at the center of IBD with the involvement of non-classical antigen presenting cells influencing potentially pathologic T cell responses, the group is collaborating in understanding the mechanisms that regulate T cell phenotype and function during IBD.

RESEARCHERS

Funding

  • REYES, VICTOR E. (PI), 09/01/16-08/31/18, Molecular Characterization of H. pylori Strains and Biomarkers in Gastric Cancer, Department of Defense Peer Reviewed Cancer Research Program Idea Award with Special Focus – Gastric Cancer, W81XWH-16-1-0274

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