We are home to an enormous microbial ecosystem containing more than 100 trillion bacteria, a number equal to our own human cells. More astonishing than the number of bacteria is the amount of genetic diversity they contribute to our physiology. It is estimated that for every one of our genes, there are approximately 145 microbial genes. This equals roughly 3.3 million microbial genes and only 23,000 human genes. Collectively, these microorganisms and their gene products are referred to as the microbiome. This community of microbes performs essential functions that help maintain human health. Shifts in the composition, distribution and/or function of the microbiome have not only been implicated in diseases of the GI tract, but also play important roles in systemic diseases such as autism, hematological cancers and neurological disease. Due to the inherent plasticity of the microbiome, the manipulation of its communities has the potential for significant therapeutic applications to treat numbers of diseases.
The goals of DePaolo Lab are to explore how intestinal perturbations caused by genetics and/or environmental factors (e.g., diet, infection, pollution) alter its microbial landscape and to use this newly acquired knowledge to develop strategies and therapies to treat human disease. To accomplish these goals DePaolo Lab utilizes an integrated and multidisciplinary approach that incorporates both clinical human samples with relevant animal models of disease and pairs metagenomics analysis of host and microbe with novel functional assays. Through careful analysis and holistic approaches we hope to define new pathways, identify new targets and gain mechanistic insight into the relationship between our environment, our genes and the microbiome.