Research

The Vento Lab uses genomics and computational tools to reconstruct immune environments. The main areas of focus are:

Vento Lab Immunogenomics

Immune cells are spread throughout the body’s tissues and in circulation where they defend against infection and injury and contribute to homeostasis. Their response adapts to the specific challenges faced in different tissue environments.

One of the most intriguing environments is the maternal-fetal interface during pregnancy. Here, an appropriate immune cell response guarantees peaceful co-existence of fetal and maternal cells whilst also protecting against infection that may threaten the developing fetus.

Questions we aim to address:
1. What drives divergent immune responses against pathogens in unique, specialised peripheral tissues?
2. What detrimental effects does an imbalanced immune response have on the fetus and the mother during pregnancy?
3. What are the mechanisms involved in the transmission of viruses from mother to fetus (vertical transmission)?

 

Our lab uses genomics, imaging and computational tools to understand the checkpoint mechanisms that ensure tailored immune responses against different infections in distinct tissues. Through international and local collaborations, we have access to large cohorts of individuals and state-of-the-art in vitro co-culturing systems. Our long-term goal is to understand the intracellular and extracellular mechanisms that shape the architecture of the immune response against infection.

Selected Publications

Vento Lab Reproductive Atlas

Sexual reproduction depends on the fusion of gametes (sperm and eggs) during fertilisation followed by implantation of the resulting embryo in the lining of the womb (the endometrium). Cellular decisions made in the early stages of embryo development will determine cellular diversity and their organisation in complex tissues and organs. The majority of tissues will continue their development and maturation in adult life where they establish contact with the external environment. One exception to this principle is the placenta. The placenta is a unique transient organ that protects the fetus against external insults whilst providing it with nutrients. Placental defects are associated with fetal growth restriction, miscarriages and preeclampsia, reflecting the crucial role of this organ in fetal development and maternal health.

 

Driving questions in the lab:
1. What alterations in the maternal-fetal communication are associated with placental defects?
2. What cellular decisions made in early development shape cellular differentiation and tissue organisation?
3. What external and internal signals regulate the division and maturation of the gametes?

 

We use genomics, imaging and computational tools to produce a comprehensive 3D cellular map of the reproductive system. Our lab is part of the Developmental Atlas in partnership with the Human Cell Atlas.

Selected Publications

Vento Lab Cellular Networks

The complex intracellular signalling pathways that drive cellular differentiation and function start with the binding of a signalling molecule (the ligand) to its receiving molecule (receptor). Mapping the ligand-receptor interactions during development, childhood, adult life and ageing is crucial to understand and predict cell identity and response. In addition, an encyclopaedia of cell surface ligand/receptors interactions in both fetal and adult tissues is of huge interest for the design of novel targeted therapies, as these classes of proteins can be
targeted by biologics.

 

Relevant interests in our lab:
1. What are the signals initiated by different ligand-receptor interactions?
2. Can we predict new extracellular and intracellular pathways using single-cell and spatial transcriptomics data?
3. Can we systematically map all the interactions of the body?

 

In collaboration with other experimental and computational teams at the WSI and EBI, we are currently developing new methods to link the receptor-ligand interactions with intracellular pathways and transcription factor activities using single-cell and spatial transcriptomic data. By mapping all the ligand-receptor interactions and their downstream signals in different fetal and adult tissues we aim to create an interactome map that will help us to understand the basic mechanisms of cellular responses and functions.

Selected Resources