Microbes are everywhere. They may be in the air, soil, water, everything you touch, and even in your body and organs.
Chengcheng Jin, Assistant Professor from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, is working on uncovering the hidden interactions between the immune system, microbio, and tumors. Her outstanding research work has led to a number of discoveries with innovative concepts and significant implications in major human diseases.
As a graduate student at Yale University, she uncovered the critical roles of innate immune receptor mediated inflammasome pathways in diverse disease conditions. For example, her work demonstrated that the AIM2 inflammasome senses double-strand damage of genomic DNA to mediate radiation-induced intestinal and hematopoietic injury. The NLRP3 inflammasome is activated by ectopic deposition of hydroxyapatite crystals in joints to promote inflammation and tissue destruction in osteoarthritis. Moreover, she found the important role of the NLRP6 inflammasome in maintaining intestinal microbiota homeostasis to regulate the development of obesity and metabolic syndrome, as well as colorectal cancer.
Later, she did her postdoctoral research with Dr. Tyler Jacks at MIT. During this time, she interrogated immune-microbiota interaction in lung cancer, which is the leading cause of cancer-related morbidity and mortality worldwide in both men and women.
Chengcheng found that lung tumor growth is associated with increased bacterial load and altered bacterial composition in the airway. This local dysbiosis significantly promoted lung adenocarcinoma initiation and progression. Mechanistically, commensal bacteria stimulated the proliferation and activation of lung-resident γδ T cells to promote inflammation and tumor cell proliferation. Eliminating commensal bacteria by antibiotic treatment, blocking γδ T cells or their downstream effector molecules such as IL-17 and IL22 all significantly suppressed lung cancer.
This study provided the first evidence clearly linking microbiota-immune crosstalk and lung tumorigenesis, thereby defining key cellular and molecular mediators that may serve as effective targets in lung cancer treatment and prevention.
Now Chengcheng is establishing her own lab at the University of Pennsylvania and aiming to further figure out the interplay between the immune system, cancer, and microbiome.