Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis are the two major disease entities of
inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). These two conditions are histopathologically
and anatomically distinct, as Crohn's disease is characterized by transmural
inflammation that can occur throughout the gastrointestinal (GI) tract and
ulcerative colitis is characterized by more superficial inflammation confined to
the colon and rectum. Despite these differences, compelling evidence generated
from studies of human patients and experimental models indicate that both
disorders are dependent upon factors present within the complex intestinal
microbiota. However, how microbiota regulates chronic intestinal inflammation is
still not completely understood.
My research focuses on host immune response to
microbiota and the pathogenesis of inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD),
specifically on how T cell, B cell and dendritic cell respond to microbiota,
how microbiota regulates the mucosal immune system, the role of this interplay
in the pathogenesis of IBD, and also the development of mucosal adjuvants. Our
hypothesis is that IBD is mediated by a restricted set of pathogenic CD4+ T cells
responding to microbiota, the antigens to which the host is normally tolerant.
Innate cells and TLR ligands play a critical role in activation and expansion of
pathogenic T cells. MicroRNAs regulate host response to enteric bacterial
antigens and pathogenesis of IBD. A number of research projects are underway in
my laboratory and these NIH-funded studies involve a number of significant
collaborations both at UTMB as well as with other universities and research
Institutes. Specifically, individual projects include: 1) the role of Th1, Th17,
and Treg cells reactive to commensal bacterial antigens in mucosal immunity and
pathogenesis of IBD; 2) plasticity and stability of memory Th1, Th17, and Treg
cells in intestine and their role in the progression of IBD; 3) microRNA regulation
of host response to commensal bacteria and pathogenesis of IBD; and 4) the
mechanisms of mucosal adjuvants in promoting immune responses.
Search PubMed for Dr. Cong's publications.