The Habtezion lab aims to understand immune mechanisms and identify potential immune-based therapeutic targets for pancreatitis and inflammatory bowel disease. The lab studies leukocyte trafficking and immune responses pertaining to the gastrointestinal organs in states of both health and disease. The lab demonstrated a beneficial role and mechanism for the stress inducible anti-inflammatory enzyme, hemeoxygenase-1, and its downstream effectors in acute pancreatitis. In chronic pancreatitis the lab demonstrated macrophage-pancreas stellate cell crosstalk that contributes to disease progression and fibrosis. The significance of this crosstalk is further demonstrated by targeting macrophage polarization and function, as well as altering disease course in established experimental disease. More recently the lab showed a mechanism via which environmental factors such as smoking (independent risk factor for the development of chronic pancreatitis and pancreatic cancer) promote immune and pancreas stellate cell interaction leading to progression of chronic pancreatitis. The lab is currently working to elucidate targetable immune pathways that alter and/or reverse the course of disease. A second major project in the lab pertains to understanding immune responses in the intestine and in inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). The lab is currently trying to understand disease heterogeneity among IBD patients using immune profiling and approaches that determine host immune-microbiome interactions. In addition, using experimental models, the lab is actively pursuing immune-enteric nervous system interaction and intestine-specific leukocyte recruitment in order to develop intestine specific therapeutic targets to ameliorate disease.
Aida Habtezion, MD, MSc