Demystifying the Microbiome

Image Credit Paul Rogers-NY Times

Image Credit Paul Rogers-NY Times

If you stop by RAIN these days, you will see UW scientist Dr. Stan Langevin in the Abel Lab diligently working under the Bio-hood. He is working on a collaborative study with Madigan Army Medical Center to identify key genes that enhance the beneficial effects of Vitamin D in soldiers. He does this with next generation DNA sequencing. 

Talk with Dr. Langevin for a few minutes and the conversation will lead to his work in the MICROBIOME. This is a hot topic in biology right now due to the critical interaction of the microbiome with host health including energy homeostasis, metabolism, overall gut health, immune system, and neurobehaviors. 

So what is the Microbiome? It is the bacteria, yeast, fungi, protozoa, and viruses that inhabit the gut of mammals and when you eat this complex system affects your mood, health, and behaviors. This can account for the reason one person gets very sick from the flu and another has few symptoms. Dr. Langevin is one of many researchers that is actively studying the interaction of the microbiome with other components of health. Recently, he was awarded an international patent for identifying specific bacteria in a child’s nose can predict how sick they got from an influenza virus infection. Dr. Langevin is collaborating with the University of Lyon in France to evaluate if these same bacteria species can be targeted in a rapid diagnostic test to better inform health care providers on which children have a higher probability of developing severe vs. mild influenza infections.

Dr. Langevin is also collaborating with the Phagebiotics Research Foundation, led by world-renowned bacteriophage expert Dr. Elizabeth Kutter, and Providence St. Peter Hospital in Olympia to better understand one of the most effective treatment for antibiotic-resistant Clostidium difficilebacterial infections, the fecal microbiota transplant. Even though the treatment success rate is >90%, not much is known about microbes used in the treatment or which microbes (bacteria, viruses, yeast, fungi) are beneficial to success of the treatment. Dr. Langevin and his team are utilizing high throughput metagenome sequencing to characterize all the microbes in patients before and after receiving fecal microbiota transplants. The goal of the project is to identify the microbes that are most beneficial to the success of the therapy and then develop treatments that only contain the beneficial microbes, like a probiotic.

A recent review by Sirisinha highlights that “These environmental factors may adversely alter gut ecosystem (dysbiosis) that is frequently associated with increased susceptibility to infections as well as to non-communicable diseases like obesity, metabolic syndromes (e.g., diabetes and cardiovascular diseases), allergy and other inflammatory diseases. Emerging evidence from more recent studies also demonstrate the existence of a bidirectional communication route linking gut and microbiota with brain, thus suggesting that these microbes may play a role in neurological disorders as well as in host perception, behavior and emotional response.1”

Stop by and discuss more about our current projects in the microbome with Dr. Langevin and other RAIN Network Partners soon. There are many new and interesting projects in the works!

1. Sirisinha, S. The potential impact of gut microbiota on your health: Current status and future challenges. Asian Pac J Allergy Immunol Dec;34(4):249-264