Environmental Triggers

We know that chemical pollutants can increase chronic inflammation, and it is possible that the dramatic increase in many chronic inflammatory diseases may not only be due to wide-spread contamination pollutants in the environment but also due to life style (smoking, lack of Vitamin D etc). Chemical pollutants have been shown to activate proinflammatory T cells and inhibit regulatory T cells, such that pathogenic T cells expand and induce chronic inflammation. Multiple pollutants may be responsible for increased immune and inflammatory diseases in industrialized countries. Further research is required to identify and explore these triggers.

The Kuchroo Lab is investigating the environmental factors that trigger autoimmunity and associated inflammation. In the lab as well as in humans, autoimmune diseases have been characterized by the presence of proinflammatory T cells (Th17 cells), which drive inflammation, and by a reduction in regulatory T cells (Treg cells) that protect against inflammation.

With support from the Evergrande Center, the Kuchroo Lab is conducting a multipronged study to investigate mechanisms by which a high salt diet and other environmental triggers that affect the balance of Th17 and Treg cells, thereby triggering autoimmune disease. Among the factors examined will be the SGK1 enzyme, which facilitates sodium transfer also is a key enzyme that regulates the differentiation of Th17 and Tregs. The lab will also describe the molecular mechanisms behind the differentiation of ordinary T cells into proinflammatory Th17 cells.