PiN Faculty Member - Isaac Chiu, PhD

Isaac Chiu, PhD

Assistant Professor of Microbiology and Immunobiology

Harvard Medical School
Dept. of Microbiology and Immunobiology
NRB, Room 830
77 Avenue Louis Pasteur
Boston, MA 02115
Tel: 617-780-9306
Visit my lab page here.

Our goal is to understand the role of neuro-immune interactions in pain, host defense and neurodegeneration. We utilize interdisciplinary approaches to determine how the nervous system communicates with the immune system in health and disease. We are also understanding how the gut-brain-axis impacts pain and neurodegeneration.

Neural-immune interactions in pain and host defense.
We have found that nociceptor sensory neurons are directly activated by bacteria and their secreted factors to produce pain. It is also increasingly clear that the nervous system plays a powerful role in regulating the immune system during inflammation. We found that sensory neurons play a key role in regulating bacterial host defense. Sensory neurons release
neuropeptides which act on their cognate receptors on immune cells to modulate immune function. We are now investigating the role of these neuro-immune interactions in the skin, gut, and respiratory tract. We aim to use targeted genetic and pharmacological tools to ascertain the role of these neuro-immune interactions in host defense against pathogens and in tissue inflammation. We are also investigating if neurons play a role in driving inflammatory diseases at
barrier tissues such as the GI tract, respiratory tract, and skin. Defining the neural-immune circuitry in peripheral tissues could uncover novel mechanisms of sensory neurobiology.

Innate immune signaling in neurons and neurodegeneration.
We have found that neurons express proteins related to innate immune signaling. We are investigating the role of these molecular sensors in regulating neuronal function. The consequences of this signaling could be changes in neuronal function and health. We are interested specifically in how the inflammasome and other innate immune molecules impact
neurodegeneration in Parkinson’s Disease and Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS).

Gut-brain axis in pain and neurodegeneration.
We are investigating the role of the gut microbiome in impacting neuronal function. One area is to understand how gut pathogens or beneficial microbes as part of the microbiome impact neuronal health. We are studying whether neuropathic pain and neurodegeneration leads to dysregulation of the microbiome. We are determining whether pathogenic infection could activate innate immune pathways that trigger neurolodegeneration or pain.

Last Update: 9/16/2020


For a complete listing of publications click here.



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