Beneficial Host Response

The microbiota plays a pivotal role in shaping the development of various physiological processes, notably the maturation of the gastrointestinal tract and the immune system. Yet, disruptions in the microbiota, particularly in early life, have been associated with the onset of diseases. Consequently, delving into the mechanisms through which certain bacteria, such as Bifidobacterium, impact host responses is instrumental in the quest for innovative therapies.

Our research explores non-communicable diseases, including intestinal disorders and cancer, which may be intrinsically linked to disruptions in the gut microbiota and altered immune responses. We approach these conditions from the perspective of microorganisms and the microbial factors that potentially mediate disease outcomes. One example of our work involves the elucidation of specific molecules, such as exopolysaccharide capsules, produced by Bifidobacterium. These molecules have shown the ability to positively impact the integrity of the gut barrier, which is often compromised in conditions like inflammatory bowel disease. To uncover further molecular and structural components contributing to these protective effects, we utilise a diverse array of research methods, including in vivomodels closely mirroring human disease pathology, high-throughput in vitro systems, and comprehensive bacterial genetic approaches. Ultimately, our aim is to develop next generation probiotics and novel live biotherapeutics capable of mitigating disease-associated pathologies and enhancing patient outcomes.

Our research has also highlighted the profound impact of gut microbiota disturbances in mothers during pregnancy and in the first 1000 days post-birth on infant health. Therefore, we are committed to unravelling the mechanisms by which specific microbes, whether positively or negatively, influence normal early life immune and metabolic development. We are particularly interested in understanding how microbial influences can enhance responses following events like vaccination.