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Member Spotlight - Benjamin Marsland


Your work in the respiratory mucosae is very exciting, can you highlight a few of the current research directions in your lab? 

We are particularly interested in the host and microbial metabolites that are present in the airways–these small molecules might hold the key to healthy tissue homeostasis, or in fact, disease chronicity. Perhaps by understanding their function in more detail, we’ll be able to identify novel ways to either promote health or stop disease progression. For a number of years, we have been investigating links between microbes, metabolites and the immune system. We’ve started generating very large ‘omics’ datasets from both mouse studies and human cohorts, and are integrating these in order to gain a clearer picture of local environments and disease mechanisms. We think we’re on the right track for now, as this level of resolution is allowing us to better discern patterns in disease phenotypes and mechanisms, potentially giving insight into the pathways we should be considering to target with future therapies.

What are the burning questions in Mucosal Immunology that keep you up at night?

I am always fascinated by questions focused towards unraveling, in detail, the mechanisms through which microbes and metabolites affect our immune system, both at local and distal sites. However, beyond my immediate research interests, I think understanding how the nervous system fits into this picture is going to shed so much light on how our immune system functions and interacts with the environment. I think the data that will come out over the next years in this area will be hugely impactful for mucosal immunology. I’m looking forward to seeing what develops!

Congratulations on becoming the next Editor-in-chief of Mucosal Immunology. Will you be introducing any new initiatives for the journal?

Thanks, this is a super exciting time. The journal has always been a great home for robust cutting-edge mucosal immunology. We’re looking to continue that, but also introducing options for rapid review and publication of brief communications that are important for the field, but might not yet have fully defined mechanisms. I’d like to see Mucosal Immunology become the first stop for people wanting to see the latest advances in the field, as well as for science that they can trust and which forms the basis for our broader understanding of the immune system at barrier sites. Beyond the actual science, we now encourage inclusion of graphical abstracts and have a bunch of new content planned through which we hope to promote debate, facilitate interactions within the community and do our best to help the field progress.

What are your priorities for the journal?

Mucosal Immunology is a society journal, and without a doubt, the goal of the editorial board is to contribute to the field as much as possible. We are prioritizing more interaction with SMI, we want to engage with members and be mindful of ensuring diversity and inclusion, particularly of early career stage researchers who are doing impactful research and share our vision of discovering how barrier tissues interact with the environment, and how this influences health and disease. As individuals, we are bombarded with information–it’s our priority as a journal to be a trusted source and a vehicle for communicating the best science. Beyond our print and online editions, we recognize the importance of communicating science through social media channels and engaging events–we’re striving towards being as effective at that as we can!

Where can we learn more about your work?

We’ve written recent reviews on host-microbe interactions, particularly with regard to respiratory immunology and diseases:

Also, here is a recent publication that highlights the approach we take to many of our host-microbe interaction questions: