Newly recruited immunologist and cellular biologist, Dr Frederic Sierro, who recently joined the Human Health research group at ANSTO, is convinced that a thorough understanding of the complex cellular players and activities of the immune system may be the key to many illnesses.
The immune system has been implicated in the regulation of many diseases, including non-infectious, non-communicable ones,” said Sierro, who will be exploring how food and nutrition contribute to the prevention of disease and maintenance of good health.
"We found that there was a long lasting immune imbalance in women who had gestational diabetes and we now have to investigate if there is a link between this and the long term risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.
Depending on the context of immune cells development or activation, in terms of cytokines, metabolism, and co-stimulatory molecules, you end up with a different regulation of these cells function.
The survival, maintenance and functional polarisation of these cells relies on the metabolism the cells follow or are forced to follow, due to availability of nutrients for example.”
Clinicians are trying to modify the diets of pregnant women in an attempt to prevent diabetes. In this particular case and also for a wider range of conditions, these interventions could not only influence systemic metabolism directly but could also have a profound impact on immune cells functions.
We could potentially use the tracer compounds that are produced by the radiochemistry group here to identify immune cells metabolic status simultaneously with their phenotype, said Sierro.
As research leader in Human Health, Frederic Sierro now turns his main focus on food, nutrition and health. “How food and diet manipulation can affect key development steps as well as pro- versus anti-inflammatory education of the immune system is becoming an intense area of research.
The advent of new food processes and formulations presents both dangers and opportunities. Thus, in the field of food science and function, the unique capabilities available in ANSTO, such as the characterisation of materials as well as the generation of traceable compounds offer unique possibilities to link back the beneficial or detrimental effects of specific food components on immune resilience to their biodistribution, retention and highly characterised physicochemical properties,
One of the main priorities of our Human Health strategic research is increasing the understanding of the key processes related to immune response that are involved in maintaining good health or developing long-term disease.
“This is an area where Frederic’s expertise will be invaluable,“ said Dr Marie Claude Gregoire, Leader of Human Health.