Intestinal Immunology Laboratory
Professor Nicola Harris's main areas of research include type two immune responses with a particular focus on understanding their role in immune protection, physiology and wound repair/tissue regeneration both in health and following intestinal helminth infection. She is interested in three main questions:
- What are the mediators of protection against intestinal helminths? With approximately a third of the world's population infected with helminths (including endemic infection rates in Papa New Guinea and Australian aboriginal populations) the need for effective vaccines against these insidious parasites is clear. In building on our work on protective immunity we hope to aid in vaccine development.
- How does type 2 immunity promote tissue repair? Strikingly, our past work showed that the mechanisms providing protection against helminths also promote improved tissue repair. This response is essential to ensure the host survives the migration of these large multicellular parasites through tissues. However understanding the mechanisms involved also provides a unique opportunity to develop novel therapies for accelerating tissue repair following injury and thus will be immediately applicable to the clinic.
- Do alterations to intestinal microbiota following helminth infection alter host health? The microbiota plays a key role in regulating health. Our recent findings that helminth infection modulates the microbiota leading to reduced allergy and obesity provides an unprecedented opportunity to discover novel pro-biotics for use in the treatment of these diseases.
Research project: Type 2 immunity: a regulator of physiology, tissue repair and metabolism. NHMRC funded 2018-2022
Research Projects for Students
- Investigating immunity during “trickle” infection by helminth parasites
- Investigating the contribution of a newly identified myeloid cell gene - resistin-like gamma (mRetnlg) - during host immune responses.
- Targeting the blood feeding pathway of the hookworm parasites
- The role of the microbiota in the protection against re-infection with intestinal parasitic worms.