A commensal fungus that grows
“Innate immunity” is a term used to refer to the body’s first reactions to infection. Macrophages and dendritic cells have an inherent or innate capacity to recognize bacterial and fungal microbes as foreign, and when these cells find foreign microbes, they become activated to “eat” and kill the organisms through a process called phagocytosis. In addition, these cells release signals that instruct development of highly specific “adaptive” immune responses that lead, over the course of days to weeks, to production of cells (such as T cells) and soluble molecules (antibodies produced by B cells) that provide long-lasting protection against the microbes.
Although the mechanisms of innate immunity are essential for the body to protect itself against infection, when the processes are activated too aggressively or at the wrong times they can contribute to a host of chronic inflammatory conditions, including inflammatory bowel disease, heart disease, autoimmune disorders, and cancer. Our hope is that by understanding how macrophages and dendritic cells translate recognition of microbes into inflammatory responses, we will be able to design targeted interventions to clinically manipulate these processes.