Worldwide, mucosal infections are a major source of morbidity and mortality. The development of innovative therapies and vaccines for such infections will require new insights into the interaction between the causative microorganism and mucosal cells. To this end, University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) investigators have focused on HIV-1 pathogenesis and vaccine development, Helicobacter pylori pathogenesis, and immune regulation of inflammatory responses to commensal bacteria. Investigators study the interaction between the microbes and mucosal cells, including epithelial cells and lamina propria lymphocytes, macrophages and dendritic cells. To synergize these UAB investigators into a cohesive research force more capable of conducting pioneering research into the interaction between microbes and host mucosal cells, the Mucosal HIV and Immunobiology Center was established June 1, 2003.
The Specific Aims of the Center are to: (1) Provide an efficient and effective mechanism to expedite, expand and foster research in the interaction between microbes (HIV-1, H. pylori and commensal bacteria) and mucosal cells (epithelial cells and innate and adaptive immune cells); (2) Coordinate and pool University-wide resources otherwise not available to individual UAB mucosal immunologists in a cost-effective, user-friendly Center; (3) Provide a resource-, expertise- and intellectual-rich environment to generate new concepts in mucosal HIV-1, H. pylori and commensal microbe immunobiology, resulting in new initiatives and the recruitment of new investigators to digestive diseases research. To accomplish these aims, the Center established three state-of-the-art Cores: (1) The Genetically- Defined Microbe Core, (2) The Molecular Pathology and Human Cell/Tissue Core and (3) The Gnotobiotic and Genetically-Engineered Mouse Core. By providing the technical infrastructure, intellectual environment and collegial setting for the exchange of ideas and research expertise, services and tools, Center investigators have been integrated into a highly interactive group with far more research strength, opportunity and potential than the sum of the individual investigators and their programs. As a result of this synergy, in only 3 1/2 years the Center has doubled its membership and NIDDK Base Grant support for digestive disease research on the UAB campus.
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