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Understanding host-microbiome interactions in health and ageing
An emerging player in health is the gut microbiota, the population of microbes living in our guts. The composition of the gut microbiota has been associated with health, disease, development and ageing, suggesting it plays an important role in human physiology. It has been suggested that differences in the composition of the gut microbiota of individuals could explain differences in disease susceptibility, and that targeting the gut microbiome could be an avenue to improve human health.
Metagenomic approaches have generated a long list of diseases associated with changes in the microbiome, but the mechanisms underlying host-microbiome interactions remain largely unknown. The challenge comes from the enormous complexity of human host-microbiome interactions and from the time and cost associated with using mammalian models. If the field is to make significant process in the mechanistic understanding of host-microbiome interactions and move beyond correlations, well-characterised, fully controlled and cost-effective models are needed.
Our lab uses the nematode C. elegans to study the effect of the microbiome on ageing, with a particular focus on the gut-brain axis. C. elegans is ideally suited to perform mechanistic studies and establish causation of host-microbiome interactions as it is small, inexpensive to work with and amenable to genetic manipulation. We use C. elegans combined with bacterial model systems, transcriptomic and metabolomic approaches to test hypotheses generated from metagenomics, and identify mechanisms by which host-microbiome interactions affect the ageing nervous system.
Read more about our research here.