Recognition of the important roles human microbiota plays in health and disease has forcefully blurred the distinction between self and non-self. Remarkably, in the human body, about 90% of cells and 99% of genes are of microbial origin. These microbes occupy every inch of the human tissue surface, mostly on the skin and in the gastrointestinal tract, and act as the boundary and separation between our sterile body and the outside environment. The association between humans and microbes has adapted to eons of co-evolution. Intricate interactions have evolved to seamlessly integrate into our eukaryotic biological networks and ultimately become absolutely indispensable with functions such as polysaccharide digestion, vitamin synthesis, immune system maturation and disease resistance. A wide range of disorders, including autoimmune diseases, metabolic syndromes, infectious diseases, and cancers are found to be results of abnormal host-microbe relationships. Our research goal is to dissect the complex interactions between host and the microbiota and to illuminate new ways of promoting human health. The approach to achieve this goal is to dissect the host-microbe systems into specific temporal and spatial compartments and focus the attention on key events in this relationship.
We ask questions not only about “what” and “how” but also about “when” and “where.” In line with these priorities, we study:
1) how early microbial exposure modulates host development and;
2) how mucosa-associated microbes direct host homeostasis.