It is increasingly clear that bacterial pathogens and resident microbes signal the nervous system to regulate physiology and health. We have found that sensory neurons can directly respond to bacterial pathogens to produce pain. Neurons also actively participate in modulating the immune system during infection and host defense. Therefore, uncovering the mechanisms of neural-bacterial interactions could lead to new ways to treat pain and infectious diseases.
Isaac Chiu is currently an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School in the Department of Immunology. His lab studies how microbes communicate with the nervous system during host defense in pain and inflammation. Chiu received his undergraduate degree from Harvard College, where he worked in Jack Strominger’s laboratory on cell-cell interactions in the immune system. He did his PhD work in Michael Carroll’s laboratory at Harvard Medical School on the role of innate and adaptive immune cells in neurodegeneration in the motor neuron disease Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). He did a postdoctoral fellowship in Tom Maniatis’s lab on transcriptome analysis of neuro-inflammation. He then joined Clifford Woolf’s lab to study the neurobiology of pain. Chiu’s research is uncovering interactions between the immune system, nervous system, and microbiome in health and in disease.