Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) & Associated Cancers

Clinical microbiome repository

The relationship we have with our gut bacteria is a give and take. While much research is interested in how the microbiome is changing our bodies, we can forget that we also  exert an enormous amount of influence on our microbial counterparts. From diet, to pollution, to antibiotic use, we are constantly exposing the microbiome with factors that could induce changes in their metabolism or function that may have detrimental effects  on our health. Focusing on IBD, we will be isolating, tracking and analyzing specific fecal bacteria  from patients over the course of their disease. This will allow clinicians and researchers to pair these bacterial studies with patient response to treatments, disease pathology and inflammation bringing a new meaning to Personalized Medicine.

Inflammation-associated and sporadic colon cancers

Our group has discovered a gene that may make cells more sensitive to chemotherapy and is associated with longer progression free and overall survival in patients with colon cancer.

Current research is focused on identifying the pathways involved in this process. Our goal is to create microbiome-associated biotherapeutics that could increase the efficacy of chemotherapy. 

Molecular Nutrition & Metabolism

Dietary interventions in Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD) and IBD

NAFLD is a condition in which significant levels of fat builds up in the cells of the liver leading to a wide spectrum of liver diseases such as cirrhosis and steatosis (infiltration of liver cells with fat). In the United States almost 10% of all children and 17% of 15-19 year olds have NAFLD. The need for improved diagnosis and treatment of NAFLD in children is highlighted by the multiple
complications these children are at high risk of developing, including atherosclerosis and other cardiovascular complications.
Current research is focused on dissociating the effects of a number of specialized and popular diets from the effects caused by the microbiome. We are also beginning exciting collaborations with clinicians at UWMC and Seattle Children’s we are investigating the impact of specific diets on children with IBD or NAFLD.

Effect of diet on infectious disease & vaccination

Poor diets and living conditions are thought to contribute to the low efficacy rate of oral vaccines in sub-Saharan Africa. In Africa 2.9 million children under the age of five will die from malnutrition each year and for those that survive nutritional deficiency takes a toll on their immune system. It is likely that prolonged malnutrition will also significantly alter the microbiome.

Current research is focused on investigating how different diets impact not just the host, but the microbiome and the pathogen and the effects on oral vaccinations.