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Illinois IGB

Research Areas

Microbiome Metabolic Engineering

The Microbiome Metabolic Engineering theme will integrate knowledge and experimental approaches from microbial physiology, microbial biochemistry, microbial ecology, enzymology, nutrition, animal model development, toxicology and environmental health, and systems biology to gain a better understanding of the microbiome’s role in health, develop new methods to assess host-microbe interactions, and examine how environmental toxicants affect human-microbiome interactions and the host.

The Microbiome Metabolic Engineering (MME) theme will focus on one of the grand challenges in biology today–how humans interact with their microbiomes and how these interactions affect human health and nutrition.

The microbiome contains millions of genomes, each of which contains a large number of genes and proteins of unknown function and uncharacterized RNA. While NIH has devoted resources towards research to determine what is in the gut microbiome, very little work has been done to gain a mechanistic understanding of how it develops and functions.

The theme will work on identifying unique pathways in the human/microbiome milieu that impact human health and nutritional status. Most published work has looked only at the adult microbiome. MME scientists will look at both adults and infants.

MME will also address the effect of environmental pollutants on humans. Microbes carry out biotransformations on foreign substances that enter the body–toxic substances can be made non-toxic, but the reverse is also true. The researchers will look at these processes in the gut and the lung to understand how environmental toxicants affect human/microbiome interactions, the impact on the host, and how to alleviate any harm they cause.