Persönlicher Status und Werkzeuge

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Microbiome and gut health

Since the pioneering work by Louis Pasteur and Robert Koch in the 19th century, the study of pathogens has been a major interest in the field of microbiology. Yet, over the last twenty years, advances in gut microbial ecology have highlighted the fundamental role of commensal gut microorganisms in health and disease. The microbiome describes the ecological community of commensal, symbiotic, and pathogenic microorganisms that literally share the body space (Lederberg and McKay 2001 Scientist).

The gut microbiome has a complex reciprocal relationship with its host. Its composition and activity can have both beneficial and deleterious effects, and at the same time, the (patho-)physiological state and genomic make-up of the host can modulate the profile and impact of the microbiome. A detailed description of the microbiome will require data on the genomic profiles, phylogenetic relationships, and spatial and temporal distribution of the different microorganisms that it comprises. The study of intestinal metagenomes by analyzing 16S rRNA gene or complete genome sequences has delivered first descriptive insights into bacterial functions in health and diseases and has shown that gut microbial ecosystems are even more complex than previously assumed. Gnotobiology, i.e., the use of germfree animals, has been essential for the discovery of bacterial functions in the gut. A striking illustration of the impact of the microbiome is the development of chronic inflammatory processes in the gut mucosa of a disease-susceptible host. Intestinal epithelial cells (IEC) are gate keepers of the gut with various functions for immune surveillance and metabolic activities. The knowledge of host-derived mechanisms for bacterial sensing and signaling at the epithelial interface is essential to understand the homeostatic state of the normal gut and the loss of homeostasis in IBD pathogenesis. Interestingly, gut bacteria seem to influence immune and metabolic functions of the host outside the restricted area of the intestine, affecting systemic autoimmunity and obesity.

Research activities of the chair aim at characterizing the role of microbiome-host interactions in the pathogenesis of IBD and obesity-associated disorders. Specifically, the mechanistic understanding of the gut epithelium as a dynamic interface between microbial and host-derive signals is a major focus of our studies using tissue-specific and gnotobiotic mouse models. Equally important is the investigation of nutritional factors (trace elements and high fat diet) in shaping the gut microbiome and chronic intestinal inflammation. The impact of nutrition and the gut  microbiome on disease susceptibility of the host are key scientific question of the chair for Biofunctionality.