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Beneficial Modulators of the Gut Microbiota

The overall goal of my research is to investigate the impact and mechanisms involved in the beneficial modulation of the gut microbiota by prebiotics (functional foods that stimulate growth of gut native beneficial bacteria) and probiotics (live bacteria that benefit their host). I specifically aim to develop prebiotic and probiotic interventions as alternatives to traditional treatments for microbiota-health related conditions, and to advance microbiota-based health surveillance methods.

Prebiotics are resistant to digestion in the upper gastrointestinal tract, arrive at the colon intact and increase the abundance of specific primary and secondary degraders with the final result of an expanded probiome, beneficial members of the intestinal microbiota. We have shown that pure prebiotics modulate gut microbiome composition and activity in humans and animal models increasing gut beneficial bacteria. In humans, the modulatory influence of pure galactooligosaccharides significantly improved clinical outcomes for lactose digestion and tolerance. Our current research investigate prebiotics as gut microbiome modulators of age-associated diseases to identify mechanisms of prebiosis in vulnerable populations.

Probiotics can reduce the risk of common infectious and acute diarrheal illnesses, and can be an alternative to treatments with antibiotics or anti-inflammatory drugs. Large-scale microbiome studies have established that most of the bacterial diversity contained in the gastrointestinal tract is represented at the strain level. Hence genomic and physiological characterization of isolates of probiotic potential is essential to determine unique attributes that will allow for personalized interventions. Our lab is conducting functional genomics studies to determine genetic components contributing to probiotic survival in the gastrointestinal tract and capability to metabolize prebiotics.

Recent Publications