We work with a small nematode, C. elegans, to study how environment impacts health and development. The environmental factors we focus on are diet and microbiota.
Environmental influence on neuronal health and neurodegeneration
Both diet and microbiota have been reported to influence neuronal health, however the mechanisms involved are poorly understood. We are examining the effects of these environmental factors on neuronal function and on age-related neuronal decline. We also use models of Alzheimer's and other neurodegenerative diseases to study the impact of environment on neurodegeneration.
Metabolic and dietary regulation of developmental processes
Nutrient availability can influence developmental processes. Many animals, including C. elegans, adjust the rate of growth and development in response to environment. In response to low nutrient diets, C. elegans slows its developmental rate, taking more time to reach maturity when resources are limited. We examine how animals sense and respond to diet and metabolic changes to understand these mechanisms at a molecular level.
How we respond to environmental factors is influenced by our genetic background. We use the nematode C. elegans to systematically examine gene-environment interactions. We are currently examining how the penetrance and severity of phenotypes in a number of genetic mutants are altered by dietary and microbiotal factors.
Using the human microbiome to identify factors that reduce virulence of P. aeruginosa
In collaboration with Drs. Mike Surette and Lori Burrows, we are using the worm as a pathogenesis model to identify factors that reduce virulence of Pseudomonas aeruginosa.