4. Do cytokines have an influence outside the immune system, in tissue repair?
Both infections and the immune responses they trigger cause collateral damage to the infected tissue. This is especially important in organs like the lung. The structure of the lung is exquisitely designed to facilitate gas exchange. Lung infection causes dramatic changes in lung morphology, including an immune cell influx, thickening of alveolar walls and initiation of new lymphoid tissues. These changes are accompanied by an extensive programme of remodelling and repair, essential to restore normal lung structure and maintain breathing. The instructions and decisions involved in these morphological changes are largely unknown.
Acute respiratory infection is the leading cause of death worldwide in children under five, and there is an urgent need to better understand the balance between effective immunity and tissue damage. One of our goals is to understand the cytokine signals that optimise the host:pathogen interaction in influenza infection. In this project, our objective is to establish how the immune system interacts with stromal cells in the lung to promote effective remodelling and repair. Our data are providing new insight into the mechanisms that drive pathology and recovery during and after an acute influenza infection.