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Special Biology Seminar - Carolina Tropini | Friday, April 5, 2024 at 4 pm

Friday, April 5, 2024
3:00pm to 4:00pm
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Special Biology Seminar

Date: April 5, 2024

Time: 4 pm

Reception: 3:30 pm

Location: Broad 100

Speaker: Carolina Tropini, Assistant Professor

School of Biomedical Engineering

Department of Microbiology and Immunology

University of British Columbia

Faculty Host: Michael Elowitz

"The physical environment shapes the gut microbiota in health and disease: mechanisms and engineering opportunities"

Abstract: The consortium of microbes living in and on our bodies is intimately connected with human biology and deeply influenced by physical forces. Despite incredible gains in describing this community, and emerging knowledge of the mechanisms linking it to human health, understanding the basic physical properties and responses of this ecosystem has been comparatively neglected. Most diseases have significant physical effects on the gut; malabsorption alters osmolality, fever and cancer increase temperature, and bowel diseases affect pH. Additionally, the gut itself presents a mosaic of localized niches, each with distinct physical conditions, hosting diverse microbial populations. Understanding the impact of common physical factors is necessary for microbiota therapies; however, our knowledge of how they affect the gut ecosystem is poor.

Our research focuses on how variations in gut pH and osmolality, prompted by diverse factors ranging from over the counter drugs to disease, modulate microbiota dynamics and bacterial pathogenesis. In our studies we monitored physical environment changes to the gut using a comprehensive and novel approach, which combines in vivo experiments to imaging, physical measurements, computational analysis, and highly controlled microfluidic experiments. By bridging several disciplines, we are developing a mechanistic understanding of the processes involved in changes to gut environmental parameters, linking single-cell biophysical changes to large-scale community dynamics. Our findings reveal that physical alterations in the gut can lead to significant and lasting changes in microbial community function and enhance bacterial pathogenesis, with potential implications for host health.

Furthermore, by leveraging the microbiota's natural ability to sense changes in the gut environment, we are utilizing synthetic biology approaches to create novel biosensors of disease.

This research not only sheds light on a relatively neglected aspect of microbiota studies but also paves the way for more effective microbiota therapies, informed by a deeper comprehension of the gut's physical landscape.

For more information, please contact Tish Cheek by phone at 626-395-4952 or by email at [email protected].