University of California San Diego School of Medicine and Chiba University School of Medicine in Japan recently announced the creation of a collaborative research center for immunology research, with a special focus on the microbiome and its impact on human health and the development of diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).
The Chiba University-UC San Diego Immunology Initiative and associated research center will be established with a $2 million funding contribution from Chiba University to be allocated over five years, with the support of UC San Diego.
The physiological balance of bacteria communities in the gut is essential to overall health and well-being, as the so-called “good” bacteria perform important physiological functions, such as the breakdown of food and nutrients, development of the immune system, and protection against disease-causing pathogenic bacteria.
Microbiota imbalance has been shown to be involved in the development of IBD. Mucosal immune responses affect a wide range of other diseases, such as infection, allergy, asthma, arthritis, type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis, and cancer. As a result, there is a great need to find effective treatments to restore microbiome function, and these therapies would affect a great number of patients.
The initiative will be co-directed by Prof. Peter Ernst, DVM, Ph.D., professor of pathology at UC San Diego School of Medicine, and Prof. Hiroshi Kiyono, DDS, Ph.D., University of Tokyo and Chiba University. Initial projects will focus on both medical and veterinary science, vaccine development, allergy, inflammation, infectious diseases, mucosal immunology, and the interactions between mucosal immunity and commensal microbiota.
“This is a collaboration of partners, both with a deep interest in advancing immunology research across disciplines,” Ernst said in a press release. “The topics we are grappling with are global in scale. We want to be leaders in both understanding mucosal immunology and in how to use that knowledge to prevent and treat a vast array of diseases such as infectious, allergic, and inflammatory diseases. We want to cultivate the next generation of scientists here, in Japan, and around the world.”
Besides Chiba University and UC San Diego, the agreement includes the creation of several laboratories, also with the participation of the La Jolla Institute for Allergy and Immunology. The initiative will also contribute to the formation of a new graduate program in immunology.
“Through collaboration and combined resources, we hope to develop new concepts and technologies that ultimately lead to development of a preventive vaccine against infectious diseases, allergies, and cancers, boosting the body’s ability to block the transmission of agents entering through mucous membranes,” said Dr. Takeshi Tokuhisa, M.D., president of Chiba University. “It would be a new approach to next-generation vaccines.”