The Gut “Multibiome” as a Regulator of Health and Disease
Friendly bacteria live on and in our intestines—and more and more, we appreciate the influence they have on our health. They shield us from invading pathogens, train our immune systems, and can protect us from developing allergies.
But if these bacteria (or our immune responses to them) become dysregulated, chronic inflammatory diseases—such as inflammatory bowel disease, rheumatoid arthritis or diabetes—can result. Complicating matters, bacteria are not the only types of bugs residing in humans, but it is unclear what influence resident viruses, fungi or worms have on their hosts.
Dr. Lisa Osborne, Canada Research Chair in Host-Microbiome Interactions, wants to understand how the human body recognizes the diverse species that reside in the gut—from microscopic viruses to large, multicellular helminthic worms. She and her research team also want to learn how the body tailors an immune response that is the right scope and size to achieve balance.
In particular, Osborne hopes her research into the “multibiome”—the collection of bacteria, viruses, fungi and multicellular helminthic worms colonizing the gut—will provide insight into how these intestinal communities become dysregulated during chronic inflammation. She and her team also hope to learn how we might use these species (or the products they make) to manipulate our immune response and restore health.
Addressing these critical gaps in knowledge will provide opportunities for new treatments to improve immunity or to rein in excessive immune responses in patients who suffer from chronic inflammatory disorders.