Skip to main content

From fast food to healthy diet: Addressing the dynamic molecular mechanism of sequential diet switch-induced T cell plasticity for the purpose of developing new treatments for immuno-mediated diseases

Periodic Reporting for period 3 - Diet-namic (From fast food to healthy diet: Addressing the dynamic molecular mechanism of sequential diet switch-induced T cell plasticity for the purpose of developing new treatments for immuno-mediated diseases)

Reporting period: 2019-12-01 to 2021-05-31

The incidence of chronic immune-mediated inflammatory diseases is continually increasing worldwide.
The cause of this increase could be the unprecedented dietary abundance typical of “Western”
countries. At the moment, however, this remains a hypothesis which still needs to be tested.
What is already known is that different types of western diets shape the composition and metabolic activity of human intestinal microorganisms; the microbiota. In addition, it is known that there is a continuous cross talk between the microbiota and the immune system. For these reasons, we have been studying whether a “bad” diet promotes a pathological state of inflammation by shaping the microbiota. In particular, we decided to focus on the adaptive immune response considering mainly T cells. Moreover, throughout the course of this project we have been testing whether the pathological effects mediated by T cells can be reversed by a switch to a “healthy” diet.
Studying the potential interaction of the components of the “Western” diet and the adaptive immune response will reveal both the enormous dynamism of the T cells and the therapeutic opportunities intrinsic to these cells. Is it possible to target these cells with specific food components in order to constrain their pathological predisposition? This project tries to answer this question and also aims to identify molecular targets for pharmacological treatments to reverse inflammatory diseases when a simple diet change no longer suffices.
In particular, the overall objectives of this project are to define the impact of (i) Western diet, and (ii) “healthy” diet on mouse CD4 T helper cells. Furthermore, we will determine whether mouse and human CD4 T helper can be reprogrammed in response to sequential shifts in the microbiota due to progressive diet habit changes.
We characterized the murine immune response to different types of western diets. In addition, we studied the role of the intestinal microbiota in response to these diets. Finally, we tested how the immune system adapts to progressive changes in the diets habit, from an unhealthy diet to a healthy one, and so on.
In summary, the main results achieved so far suggest that the western diet has a profound negative impact in the immune response and this is due to the alteration of the intestinal microbiota.
Our results have the potential to change the social perception of the effects of the consumption of a Western diet and help people to be fully aware of the real risk intrinsic to the consumption of this diet. We also expect to reveal the key unhealthy components ( e.g. Cholesterol, Fat, Sugar) of the western diet and the particular immune mechanisms mediating such effects.