School of Medicine
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Michael R. Howitt
Assistant Professor of Pathology and of Microbiology and Immunology
Current Research and Scholarly InterestsOur lab is broadly interested in how intestinal microbes shape our immune system to promote both health and disease. Recently we discovered that a type of intestinal epithelial cell, called tuft cells, act as sentinels stationed along the lining of the gut. Tuft cells respond to microbes, including parasites, to initiate type 2 immunity, remodel the epithelium, and alter gut physiology. Surprisingly, these changes to the intestine rely on the same chemosensory pathway found in oral taste cells. Currently, we aim to 1) elucidate the role of specific tuft cell receptors in microbial detection. 2) To understand how protozoa and bacteria within the microbiota impact host immunity. 3) Discover how tuft cells modulate surrounding cells and tissue.
Professor of Bioengineering and of Microbiology and Immunology
Current Research and Scholarly InterestsHow do cells determine their shape and grow?
How do molecules inside cells get to the right place at the right time?
Our group tries to answer these questions using a systems biology approach, in which we integrate interacting networks of protein and lipids with the physical forces determined by the spatial geometry of the cell. We use theoretical and computational techniques to make predictions that we can verify experimentally using synthetic, chemical, or genetic perturbations.