HANDEL-ICredit: Image created with BioRender at Brusko Lab

The early life events that influence immune system development have implications in the development of a multitude of diseases including type 1 diabetes (T1D). The immune system is actively evolving and integrating dynamic signals from the host’s environment, not only to ward off external infection but also to respond to and participate in tissue growth and remodeling. The critical processes that determine immune tolerance or autoimmunity are shaped by these exposures. While much has been learned regarding the developing immune system in animal models, many knowledge gaps exist with respect to early human immune system development, including the fundamental processes involved in establishing self-tolerance, and how early adaptive immune responses are generated to the many diverse antigens and pathogens encountered during infancy and childhood. Access to human tissues, innovative research technologies, and analytic and data sharing capabilities are unprecedented and can now be leveraged to gain new insights. The purpose of HANDEL-1 program is to better understand the “normal” human immune developmental program by acquiring stromal and mucosal tissues from infant and pediatric organ donors and to create a novel and essential dataset informing immune system development in a collaborative research project that leverages shared access to various tissues in conjunction with the existing HANDEL-P program that seeks to understand the development of the pancreas and islet microenvironment in early life.