The prevalence of obesity and diabetes is increasing world-wide, and although increasing energy consumption and reduced physical exercise play key roles, data suggest that chronic low-grade inflammation is the underlying cause. Studies in both mice and humans provide evidence that over-feeding and excess consumption of nutrients evoke an inflammatory response in adipose tissue, muscle, and liver.
The Benoist-Mathis Lab’s research at the Evergrande Center examines the complex communications between immune-system cells and internal organs responsible for an organism’s homeostasis. Their recent research has shown that visceral adipose, skeletal muscle, and colon tissues – known to play critical roles in systemic metabolism –contain distinct regulatory T (Treg) cells that impact the activities of nearby tissue cells and immune-system cells. Using these specific tissue types, the Benoist-Mathis Lab will determine the signals sent between immune system cells (e.g. macrophages) that destroy alien cells, Treg cells that control the immune response, and tissue cells.
The Benoist-Mathis Lab’s research will identify molecules produced by Treg cells responsible for regulating the activities of macrophages and tissue cells. Conversely, they will isolate the molecules produced by macrophages and tissue cells that control the activity and survival of the associated Treg cells. The lab will also explore how gut microorganisms and age of the individual impact the signals sent between macrophages, Treg cells, and the tissue cells. The studies are expected to reveal molecular pathways that modify immune function and regulatory circuits, potentially leading to future therapeutic applications.