My lab studies the interplay between the gut microbiome and the immune system and how their “miscues” can lead to autoimmune diseases, particularly type 1 diabetes. As a 2013 BBS grad, I understand what it takes to have a successful Ph.D. experience.
The gut is the largest mammalian immune organ. It has co-evolved over hundreds of millions of years with its indigenous “microbiome,” the collection of 100 trillion symbiotic bacteria that inhabit our intestinal tract. Together, our immune system and our indigenous microbiota live in harmony, both secreting molecular signals that keep each other in homeostasis. Modulations to the gut mucosal immune system made by the gut microbiome are felt systemically.
Recent research has found that a disconnect between our microbiome and our immune system and metabolism likely underlie many “Western” diseases including obesity, type 2 diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease, and allergic diseases. My previous research has shown that the composition of the gut microbiome is drastically altered in infants with type 1 diabetes prior to diagnosis, suggesting that it could be a factor in disease development. Furthermore, we showed that the immunostimulatory capacity of the infant gut microbiome affects immune maturation and may influence progression towards type 1 diabetes.
In my newly formed lab, we strive to develop a high-level understanding of the immunomodulatory effects of the diverse constituents of the symbiotic microbiota and their impact on type 1 diabetes and related autoimmune diseases. My research program consists of three intertwined activities:
(1) Computational analysis of large patient cohorts including genomic, transcriptomic, and metabolomic datasets of the host and gut microbiome to identify microbial products associated with disease or health;
(2) Engineering microbes via synthetic biology to perturb these products;
(3) Mechanistic studies in humanized, gnotobiotic mouse models to demonstrate that these microbial products directly impact disease. We ultimately want to bring engineered gut microbes or their purified products to clinical trials.
One Joslin Place
Room 4504B (Mezzanine)
Boston, MA 02215