Sections, IGs & WGs

WG Epithelial Cell Biology Working Group

Background and Rationale: Humans are exposed to a variety of toxins and chemicals every day. According to the epithelial barrier hypothesis, exposure to many of these substances damages the epithelium, the thin layer of cells that covers the surface of our skin, lungs and intestine. Epithelial cell activation and release of epithelial cell cytokines such as IL-25, IL-33 and TSLP play a major role in the development and exacerbation of allergic diseases and asthma. Defective epithelial barriers have been linked to a rise in almost two billion allergic, autoimmune, neurodegenerative and psychiatric diseases.

The scientific community sees this as one of the three major threats to humanity, such as global warming and climate change, virus infection pandemic, such as COVID and Ebola, and exposure to multiple toxic agents in the environments, such as detergents, ozone, nanoparticles, microplastic, household cleaners, enzymes and emulsifiers in packaged food, air pollution, cigarette smoke and uncountable numbers of chemicals that we are exposed in air, food and water. 

There is a need to continue research into the epithelial barrier to advance our understanding of the factors and molecular mechanisms associated with ‘leaky barriers’. Experimental models should be developed and validated to monitor the trafficking of environmental antigens across a leaky epithelial barrier; this will inform approaches for the prevention, early intervention and development of novel therapeutic approaches.

Local epithelial damage to the skin and mucosal barriers lead to allergic conditions, inflammatory bowel disorders and celiac disease. But disruptions to the epithelial barrier can also be linked to many other diseases that are characterized by changes in the microbiome. Either the immune system erroneously attacks “good” bacteria in healthy bodies or it targets pathogenic – i.e. “bad” – invaders.  In the gut, leaky epithelial barriers and microbial imbalance contribute to the onset or development of chronic autoimmune and metabolic diseases such as diabetes, obesity, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis or ankylosing spondylitis. Moreover, defective epithelial barriers have also been linked to neurodegenerative and psychiatric diseases such as Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, autism spectrum disorders and chronic depression, which may be triggered or aggravated by distant inflammatory responses and changes in the gut’s microbiome.

Aims:

A.  Coordination of research and education on the avoidance and dose control of all of the above-mentioned substances 

B. Coordination of research and education for the development of safer, less-toxic products, 

C. Coordination of research and education on the discovery of biomarkers for the identification of individuals with a leaky epithelial barrier, 

D. Coordination of research and education on the development of novel therapeutic approaches for strengthening the tissue-specific barriers 

E.  Coordination of research and education on understanding the changes in microbiome on epithelial barrier leaky areas, bacterial translocation, decreased biodiversity, colonization of opportunistic pathogens

F. Coordination of research and education on treatments and interventions through diet and the microbiome 

G. Development of educational content on EC biology for the EAACI Knowledge Hub.

H. Development of an EAACI Schools and Focused Meetings on Epithelial Cells and Microbiome

I. Collaborative work with EAACI Sections, Immunology, Asthma, Pediatrics, Dermatology and ENT and WGs of Aerobiology, Biologicals

J. Lobbying in EU in collaboration with the EAACI leadership to have EU Consortia Projects in the area.

Last updated 17 November 2021
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