Host – microbe interactions - Joseph Rafter
The human gut is colonized by billions of commensal microbes, which constitute a complex and diverse community collectively known as the gut microbiota. These microbes communicate with each other and the host (both locally and systemically) through mechanisms not fully understood. The microbiota exert positive physiological and nutritional effects, and alterations in its composition are associated with human conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease, colon cancer and metabolic diseases. Recently, it is becoming obvious that the microbiota are also involved in the maintenance of a ‘good health’.
One of the interests of our work is to develop biomarkers that can assess this latter effect. We are also interested in identifying molecularbiomarkers that can assess this latter effect.
We are also interested in identifying molecular targets in host tissues, relevant to the above conditions, which are regulated by the microbiota.
Examples of such targets to date include nuclear receptors involved in inflammation and metabolism and fasting-induced adipose factor (FIAF), a lipoprotein lipase inhibitor, important in fat storage regulation.
Therapeutic strategies must then be considered, where modifications in the gut microbiota may be introduced via pharmacological or dietary changes, in order to restore “normal” intestinal flora and human wellbeing. Thus, a major focus of our work is attempting to modify identified/relevant gut-regulated targets through modifying the diet with e.g. probiotic bacteria.
Gut microbiota influence host physiology through local and systemic effects.