Immunity and inflammatory processes play important roles in the pathophysiology of allergic diseases, such bronchial asthma, hay fever, atopic dermatitis and chronic rhinosinusitis.
The overall research goals of Hirohito Kita, M.D., are to better understand the pathophysiologic mechanisms of these diseases with a specific focus on immune cells, innate immunity and mucosal immunity, as well as to find ways to prevent, treat and cure these diseases.
Strong collaborations have been established with Mayo Clinic investigators and physicians in the Department of Medicine, the Department of Immunology, the Department of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, and the Department of Otorhinolaryngology. Collaboration with investigators at other institutions is also actively ongoing.
- Mechanisms involved in early development of T helper 2 (Th2)-type immune responses to allergens. Dr. Kita has been studying how airway exposure to common allergens leads to development of Th2-type immunity. He has examined how products of airway epithelial cells affect functions of dendritic cells, CD4+ T cells, novel lymphoid cells and other immune cells resident in the airways. Several animal models have also been created to dissect the immunological mechanisms involved in development of Th2-type airway immune response.
- Mechanisms involved in the interaction of airway mucosa with environmental allergens and airborne pathogens. Dr. Kita has been studying the mechanisms involved in the responses of airway epithelial cells to these environmental molecules by using tissue cultures, mouse models, and genetic and pharmacological approaches. The roles of commensal microorganisms to regulate the mucosal immune responses are also actively studied.
- Mechanisms of chronic activation of immune cells in patients with allergic disorders, such as asthma and chronic sinusitis. Dr. Kita has been studying the responses of immune cells, such as lymphocytes, natural killer cells and dendritic cells, to common environmental antigens in patients with allergic disorders. Animal models have also been developed to mimic exacerbation of chronic airway inflammation and manipulate the immune system as a potential therapeutic approach for patients.
- Pathologic mechanisms of eosinophils in human diseases. Dr. Kita has been studying how eosinophils infiltrate into the tissues, how eosinophils are activated in local inflammatory sites, and what roles eosinophils play in immunity, tissue homeostasis and pathology of human diseases.
- Novel treatment approaches for patients with asthma and allergic disorders. In mouse models of diseases and patients with allergic disorders, Dr. Kita has been studying whether manipulation of the mucosal environment by anti-microbial agents and manipulation of immune cell functions would prevent development or inhibit progression of airway inflammation.
Significance to patient care
Dr. Kita's work has been improving the understanding of the mechanisms of asthma and other allergic diseases and providing novel approaches to prevent, diagnose and cure these diseases.
- Walter and Leonore Annenberg Professor in Pulmonary Medicine, 2011