Pioneering immune sensing and signaling dynamics research

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Pioneering immune sensing and signaling dynamics research

Breaking new ground in immunology research

The Immune Sensing and Signaling Dynamics GroupImmunoHUB at i3S is making remarkable strides in the field of host-pathogen interactions. The team is dedicated to unraveling the complex network of pattern recognition receptors (PRRs) and signaling pathways that are triggered during various bacterial infections, shedding light on their significance. Group leader Dr Pedro Moura Alves has established himself as a leading figure in this area, thanks to his groundbreaking discovery of the importance of the AhR in regulating immune responses to bacterial infections. This protein has long intrigued immunologists, due to its diverse roles in immune regulation, and the group’s findings have demonstrated that it acts as a crucial modulator of immune responses, influencing the balance between inflammatory and regulatory processes. 

The group is using the VACUSAFE safe aspiration system and the PIPETBOY acu 2 pipet controller to support their investigations into how the immune system recognizes and responds to bacterial infections and cancers. Pedro explained: “Our research focuses on three main areas: host-pathogen interactions, host-tumor interactions, and host-drug interactions. Our central objective is to explore the therapeutic potential of targeting the AhR for both tumor responses and bacterial infections, including screening panels of drugs that have already been clinically approved for other indications. We employ various model systems – such as zebrafish and mice – and use INTEGRA’s reliable and accurate tools to ensure the consistency and reproducibility of our experiments. The VACUSAFE system, in particular, is invaluable for efficient aspiration in cell culture workflows, which is essential for many of the reporter systems we work with. Together with the PIPETBOY, this ensures a precise, reliable and streamlined workflow.”

Examining the crucial role of a receptor with expert equipment

The VACUSAFE aspiration system is renowned for its precision and efficiency in cell culture workflows, and has contributed significantly to the group’s ability to maintain optimal experimental conditions. Pedro elaborated: “The VACUSAFE allows us to easily regulate the speed of aspiration, which is crucial for the gentle handling of our cell cultures. Our lab personnel appreciate its convenience, as all of the individual components – pump, bottle and filter – are fully integrated into one system. We can also simultaneously aspirate liquid from 8 wells, saving us time and effort. On a typical day, each person pipettes 6 to 7 cell culture plates and changes the medium in each plate several times a week. Performing these tasks manually would be challenging but, with the VACUSAFE, we can accomplish them rapidly and precisely.”

The team uses the PIPETBOY to streamline the dispensing of cells and the exchange of media across various laboratory workflows, enhancing accuracy and reproducibility. Pedro added: “The lightweight design of the PIPETBOY makes it easy to use, and provides better control of the liquid level during serological pipetting compared to other brands. INTEGRA’s tools have not only improved our experimental workflows, but have also ensured the reliability and quality of our research outcomes. We are enthusiastic about incorporating more INTEGRA equipment into our work, and hope to acquire the VIAFLO 96 handheld electronic pipette in the near future.” 

Photo courtesy of Instituto de Investigação e Inovação em Saúde (i3S)

Future impact on personalized medicine approaches

“Looking ahead, studying the AhR will be vital for personalized medicine, as it acts as a sensor in numerous disease mechanisms. Different drugs can modulate this receptor and so, by fine-tuning the AhR’s activity, the mechanism of action of many therapeutics can be improved. Our aim is to apply the knowledge that we gain from studying immune sensing and signaling dynamics to the development of novel therapeutic strategies for both infectious diseases and cancer. We believe that this approach holds promise for improving patient outcomes and positively impacting healthcare pathways, bridging the gap between fundamental immunology research and clinical applications,” Pedro concluded.