As humans, we co-exist with a vast ecosystem of microbes that reside at our barrier surfaces, including the skin and gastrointestinal tract. These commensal microbes are critical for our health, providing resistance to pathogenic microbes, aiding digestion and promoting development and education of our immune systems. Much of our understanding and studies of how the immune system functions were learned using models of infection and inflammation. By contrast, the vast majority of host-microbe interactions occur in healthy barrier tissues colonized by commensal microbes. How our immune system recognizes and responds to commensal microbes in poorly understood.
The Harrison lab is working to further understand the mechanisms by which immunity to commensal microbes is mounted, and how these commensal-specific T and B cells promote tissue homeostasis and repair, with the goal that these mechanisms may be harnessed for treatment of chronic inflammatory barrier tissue disorders.