Microbial metabolism in the human gut microbiome influences inflammation


20191120_160204I study how different types of dietary fibers (prebiotics) are fermented by our gut microbiota and how this leads to the production of beneficial metabolites. One class of metabolites that we are interested in are the short-chain fatty acids (SCFA), which help manage inflammation and barrier function in the gut, and influence energy homeostasis. Using an in vitro fermentation assay I developed, we were able to show that people’s microbiota prefer deferent types of fiber, suggesting the need for personalized fiber selection to maximize benefit. This work is published in mBio.

StudyDesignCartoon2To follow up this interesting in vitro finding, I designed and implemented a 28 person human dietary intervention study. Enrolled participants spent 6 weeks providing samples of their stool and consuming three different dietary fibers. This is the first 3-way crossover dietary fiber intervention study, and is designed to enable us to directly compare the effects of different prebiotics in the same people. This work is being written up for publication.

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While these previous studies focused on the microbiota of healthy individuals, my goal is to translate what we have learned to disease systems, to improve patient outcome. To this end, we have collaborated with a research group that studies GI inflammatory diseases. Here, we use an in vivo model to explore the effects of altering gut microbiota metabolism on host disease progression.