Microbial control of gut environment in IBD

Gut health is closely connected to our microbiota, a unique, constantly evolving, group of trillions of bacteria that live in our bodies. Gut microbes produce compounds that are absorbed into our blood, providing nourishment and also affecting the gut environment. The digestive tract is composed of many different local areas, called habitats, in which physical and chemical properties such as water availability, salt concentration, acidity or temperature are tightly controlled by human-microbe interactions. These habitats are dramatically changed by inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and in return affect which microbes can survive within them. Despite the importance of the gut environment to IBD, we know little about its effects on the gut microbiota and on the progress of the disease.

I will use a combination of cutting-edge experimental and computational techniques to study the connection between the gut microbiota, the gut microenvironment, and IBD. My laboratory will study tissues from IBD patients to identify what aspects of the gut environment and microbiota can predict flares and remission. We will also study isolated bacteria and study how they respond to, as well as modify, their environment in a mouse model of IBD. This research will lead to health and economic benefits for Canadians, by developing microbiota based therapies for diseases of the digestive tract that affect millions of Canadians.