The intestinal compartment is a complex environment composed by different type of cells (immune cells, epithelial cells, gut microflora) involved in functional interactions aimed at maintaining a balance between tolerance and immunity. Thus, the research activity of my lab is being oriented by two questions:
- How are conventional and unconventional CD4+T cells functionally influenced by the surrounding microenvironment during homeostatic or pathogenic conditions?
- Is it possible to implement immune cells phenotype and functions for predictive, prognostic or therapeutic purposes, upon elucidation of the mechanisms controlling their activity?”
Specific projects of the lab
- The evaluation of the phenotypic and functional status of immune cells isolated from intestinal specimens of sporadic and inflammation-associated colorectal cancer (CRC) patients and the study of the interactions between the immune system and the intestinal tumor microenvironment. In addition, this project aims at investigating how cancer cells might positively or negatively affect T cells activation by expressing specific inhibitory molecules or by displaying cancer-associated lipid antigens (Start-UP AIRC 2013).
- The evaluation of the interaction between mucosal immune cells isolated from intestinal specimens of sporadic and inflammation-associated colorectal cancer (CRC) patients and the gut microbiota in the immuneregulation of colorectal cancer development.
- The understanding of the behavior of the mucosal immune system during both homeostatic and inflammatory conditions. The requirements for the functional activation of T cell subsets in the gut and which is their functional effect on epithelial cells is being explored with a translational approach involving both murine models of intestinal inflammation and surgical specimens of patients with chronic intestinal inflammation (IBD) (Giovani Ricercatori 2013).
- Recent evidences suggest that imbalances in the composition and in the function of the gut microbiota directly correlate, in genetically predisposed individuals, to autoimmune disease and to cancer development. Thus, a project in the lab aims at understanding how the gut microbiota affects mucosal T cell functions in health and disease (Giovani Ricercatori 2016).